Wildlife Conservation Efforts

What are the rules for elephant transfers? | Explained


From UPSC perspective, the following things are important :

Prelims level: Wildlife Protection Act, 1972;

Mains level: Concerns about the Wildlife Protection Act and the establishment of private zoos;

Why in the news?

The Centre has notified a set of rules called the Captive Elephant (Transfer or Transport) Rules, 2024 that liberalises the conditions under which elephants may be transferred within or between States.

What are the rules around the transfer and transport of elephants?

  • Legal Protection: Elephants are classified as Schedule I species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, prohibiting their capture or trade, whether wild or captive, except for specific purposes.
  • Special Purposes: Section 12 of the Act allows for the translocation of Schedule I animals for special purposes such as education, scientific research, wildlife population management, and specimen collection for recognized zoos/museums.
  • Ownership of Captive Elephants: Captive elephants, due to their historical roles in forest management, timber transport, and religious ceremonies, fall under a special category and can be owned. However, strict rules govern their transfer.
  • Permission Requirement: Section 40(2) of the Wildlife Protection Act mandates written permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden for the acquisition, possession, and transfer of captive elephants.
  • Amendment in 2021: In 2021, the Environment Ministry introduced an amendment allowing the transfer of elephants for “religious or any other purposes,” departing from the previous restriction against transactions of a commercial nature.
  • Controversy: The broad interpretation of the amendment raised concerns among activists and researchers regarding potential trafficking and illegal commercial transactions. Opposition from a standing committee, led by former Environment Minister Jairam Ramesh, was overruled, and the amendment was passed into law.

What do the updated rules say?

  • Reasons for Transfer: New relaxations allow for the transfer of captive elephants when the current owner is unable to maintain them or when the Chief Wildlife Warden deems it necessary for better upkeep.
  • Approval Process: Before a transfer within the state, the elephant’s health must be verified by a veterinarian, and the Deputy Conservator of Forests must confirm the suitability of both the current and prospective habitats. The Chief Wildlife Warden decides whether to approve or reject the transfer based on these documents.
  • Interstate Transfer: Similar conditions apply if the transfer involves moving the elephant outside of a state. The elephant’s genetic profile must be registered with the Ministry of Environment, Forest, and Climate Change.
  • Permission Process: Previously, transferring an elephant across states required permissions from the Chief Wildlife Wardens of every state the elephant would pass through. Now, only permissions from the originating and recipient states are necessary for interstate transfers.

What do the updates mean?/ concerns about the Wildlife Protection Act and the establishment of private zoos 

  • Lax Enforcement for Elephants: While the Wildlife Protection Act imposes restrictions on trafficking of wild animals, including elephants, critics argue that enforcement has become lax, particularly in the case of elephants.
  • Establishment of Private Zoo: The establishment of India’s largest private zoo in Jamnagar, Gujarat, affiliated with the Reliance Foundation, has raised questions about the treatment and sourcing of elephants.
  • Purpose of the Zoo: While the zoo is described as a rescue center aimed at rehabilitating traumatized and injured elephants, among other wildlife, concerns have been raised about its actual operations.
  • Controversial Hosting: The zoo reportedly hosts around 200 elephants, including “healthy animals,” which has sparked controversy. Critics question the need to host healthy animals in a rescue center and raise doubts about the welfare and origins of these elephants.
  • Source of Elephants: There are concerns that some of the elephants in the zoo may have been sourced from the wild rather than being captive-bred or rescued. This raises ethical and conservation concerns about the impact on wild elephant populations.

Conclusion: Address lax enforcement of wildlife protection laws for elephants. Ensure transparency in private zoo operations and strict adherence to ethical sourcing guidelines. Prioritize conservation efforts and welfare of captive and wild elephant populations.

PYQ Mains-

Q- How does biodiversity vary in India? How is the Biological Diversity Act,2002 helpful in conservation of flora and fauna? (250 Words, 15 Marks)

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