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PETA India urges Rajya Sabha MPs to revise Wildlife Bill, prohibit ‘ownership’ of elephants

Ahead of Parliament’s winter session, animal rights group is pushing to include certain provisions in Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2022 to curb illegal trade of elephants.

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New Delhi: Animal rights organisation PETA India has urged members of the Rajya Sabha to include provisions in the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2022 that prohibits ‘ownership’ and transfer of elephants to individuals or religious institutions.

The appeals — made in the form of individual letters on 30 November — came days before Parliament’s winter session that is set to commence on 7 December.

“It’s not just about regulation anymore, we are pushing for complete eradication of the ownership of elephants,” Khushboo Gupta, director of PETA’s advocacy project, told ThePrint.

Elephants are the only wild animals that can be ‘owned’ by individuals in India. While Section 43 (1) of the Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2022 prohibits the sale of captive animals such as elephants, their trade still persists in the form of ‘gifts’ or ‘donations’, the PETA said.

“The elephants are used primarily for entertainment purposes, as props in weddings, for temple ceremonies or rides for tourists,” Khusboo added.

The Wild Life (Protection) Amendment Bill, 2022 has already been passed by the Lok Sabha. It includes a clause to Section 43 that permits the use of elephants for ‘religious or any other purpose’.

Many other animal protection outfits had also written to Rajya Sabha MPs last month seeking removal of the suggested clause in Section 43.

In its appeal to the Rajya Sabha MPs, PETA cites Article 51-A (g) of the Constitution which states that one of the fundamental duties of an Indian citizen is to protect the natural environment and wildlife, and to have compassion for living creatures.

Jumbos in captivity

According to reports, there are a total of 2,675 captive elephants in India, and a majority of them are in the Northeastern and Southern states. Till date, a total of 1,251 ownership certificates for elephants have been issued by the states.

Assam, Kerala, Karnataka, Madhya Pradesh, Tripura, and Uttar Pradesh account for 96 per cent of elephants in captivity without ownership certificates. This is a violation of the Wild Life Protection Act, which states that no person can acquire, receive, keep or sell elephants, without a written permission from the chief wildlife warden of an area, the PETA said.

Gaurav Gogoi, a Congress MP from Assam, told ThePrint, “We have seen many instances of elephants being ill-treated in Tamil Nadu. Thus, this is a debate that we should certainly have. People of Assam are very sensitive to it as well. Even though Assam has kept elephants in places such as Kaziranga National Park, they are kept under trained people. However, that is not the case for elephants kept in temples, and it has often led to accidents.”

While a genetic database to record captive elephants was launched this year, the data will only be released in March next year.

“We have been working with elephants in Rajasthan, and learned that many of them were kept captive and used for providing rides and entertainment at Amer Fort, Jaipur. The Rajasthan forest officials even filed a case in a Rajasthan court claiming that they knew of 61 elephants that were unverified from their end,” Khushboo said.

Also Read: India has lost nearly 500 elephants to unnatural factors since 2013


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