Wildlife Conservation Efforts

First Captive Elephant Survey


Mains Paper 3: Environment | Conservation, environmental pollution and degradation, environmental impact assessment

From UPSC perspective, the following things are important:

Prelims level: Highlights of the MoEFCC Survey on Elephant

Mains level: Man-Animal Conflict


  • The details of the first survey of captive elephants in the country were submitted in an affidavit by the MoEFCC to the Supreme Court.
  • The affidavit comes in the wake of rising elephant deaths and human-elephant conflicts, particularly in Kerala and Assam.

In Total

  1. According to the affidavit, there are 2,454 elephants in captivity, of which 560 are in possession with forest departments and 1,687 with private individuals.
  2. However, 664 of the total captive elephants in the country are without ownership certificate while there are 85 in zoos, 26 in circuses and 96 in temples.

Statewise Details

  1. The affidavit covers data for 28 states and Union Territories.
  2. It shows that Assam and Kerala account for more than half the nationwide total of 2,454.
  3. Assam has 37% of these captive elephants and Kerala has 21%.
  4. Concentration in two states means a wide gap with the count in other states — the third highest is Karnataka’s 184, roughly one-fifth of Assam’s 905 and a little over one-third of Kerala’s 518.
  5. Of these, one-third are in private custody without any ownership certificate mandated by law; zoos, circuses and temples account for 207 elephants in captivity.

Why such Survey?

  1. In Nov 18, the Court had pulled up the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) for not having data on the number of elephants held captive.
  2. The apex court had directed the MoEFCC to identify elephants in captivity and whether their owners have an ownership certificate.
  3. It was hearing a writ petition filed by Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre.
  4. The bench has now directed the Chief Wildlife Wardens of states to ascertain the age of all the captive elephants.
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