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HomeIndiaGovernanceIndia’s first & only elephant hospital is ‘illegal’, says Central Zoo Authority

India’s first & only elephant hospital is ‘illegal’, says Central Zoo Authority

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Central Zoo Authority says elephant hospital run by NGO never took permission. NGO claims it doesn’t need CZA permission.

New Delhi: Weeks after India’s first elephant hospital opened in Mathura, much to the joy of animal activists and tourists, a central regulatory body has said it is “illegal and not permissible for operation” and recommended the NGO running it be prosecuted.

In a notice sent to the Uttar Pradesh government on 30 November, the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) has said: “The Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, Mathura, is established without obtaining prior permission of this authority and operating without obtaining recognition by this authority.

“Therefore, the said facility is illegal and not permissible for operation.”

The facility is owned and run by NGO Wildlife SOS, and is equipped with facilities such as wireless digital X-Ray, thermal imaging, ultrasonography, tranquilisation devices and quarantine facilities.

Prosecution recommended

Soon after the Mathura centre opened last month, some animal rights activists are said to have complained to the CZA regarding the alleged violations of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

Recommending that the NGO be prosecuted for the aforementioned “illegality”, the CZA has advised the Chief Wildlife Warden of Uttar Pradesh to take necessary action in the matter.

“Further, the Chief Wildlife Warden, Uttar Pradesh is advised to get the allegations raised in the complaints enquired and also take prosecution action under Section 51 of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 against the operator of the Elephant Conservation and Care Centre, Mathura for its illegal operation in violation of Section 38-H(1A) and 38-H(1) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972,” the notice said.

“Also, a report on compliance be sent to the office of the Central Zoo Authority.”

Also read: Mathura hospital to give elephants a real healing touch

Opposite points of view

Kartick Satyanarayan, co-founder of Wildlife SOS, denied the allegations, arguing that the notice is a result of “some confusion”. He pointed out that the CZA is only a regulatory authority for zoos and rescue centres, and that the centre in Mathura is neither.

“What we have established in Mathura is an elephant camp, wherein elephants are housed, provided care and medical treatment,” said Satyanarayan, who served as a CZA member from 2007 to 2017.

“There are elephant camps across the country and none of them are recognised by the CZA…Then why this particular camp?”

Further, adding that at least two inspector generals of forests from the environment ministry in the central government had congratulated Wildlife SOS for the camp in writing when it opened, Satyanarayan said: “Surely, two departments of the central government cannot be saying opposite things. Also, if our facility was illegal, they wouldn’t be writing congratulatory letters to us.”

The Director General of Forests in the central government, Siddhanta Das, agreed with him. CZA, he told ThePrint, does not have authority over elephant camps and is responsible for regulation of zoos alone.

However, D.N. Singh, member secretary of the CZA, said that under the Wildlife Protection Act, any facility which houses animals for more than 30 days is deemed a rescue centre under law, and therefore needs CZA permission to function.

“If you have kept elephants for more than 30 days in captivity, you have to be recognised by CZA,” he said.

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