Captive Elephant (Transfer or Transport) Rules, 2024

GS Paper III 

News Excerpt:

The Centre has introduced the Captive Elephant (Transfer or Transport) Rules, 2024, aiming to liberalize the conditions surrounding the transfer of elephants within or between states.

What are the Circumstances for Captive Elephant Transfer:

  • Inadequate Maintenance by Owners: Captive elephants can be transferred when owners are unable to maintain them adequately, ensuring their welfare and proper care.
  • Better Care Elsewhere: If it is determined that captive elephants would receive better care in a different environment or under different ownership, transfers may be authorized.
  • State Chief Wildlife Wardens: The responsibility for sanctioning transfers lies with the State Chief Wildlife Wardens. 
    • They have the authority to approve transfers based on the specific conditions outlined in the rules, ensuring proper oversight and adherence to welfare standards.

What are the Rules Governing Captive Elephant Transfer:

  • Pre-Transfer Procedures: 
    • Elephant transfers require an application, which must be submitted to the Deputy Conservator of Forests (DCF), who oversees the region where the elephants are registered. 
      • After receiving the application, DCF must: 
        • Obtain a veterinarian's certificate.
        • Investigate and physically inspect the facility where the elephant is being held and where it is proposed to be housed
        • Submit the application and report to the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW) within fifteen days.
  • Conditions for Transfer: 
    • Transfers of captive elephants are permitted under specific circumstances: when the current owner is unable to adequately care for the elephant or when better upkeep is available elsewhere, as determined by the state Chief Wildlife Warden.
      • Additionally, no transfer is allowed unless the genetic profile of the animal has been entered into the electronic monitoring application of the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • Interstate Transfers: 
    • Transfers across state borders require registration of the elephant's genetic profile with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.
  • Transportation Guidelines: 
    • During transport, elephants must be accompanied by a mahout and an assistant. A health certificate from a veterinary practitioner, adherence to quarantine periods for contagious diseases, provision of adequate food and water, and use of tranquilizers under veterinary guidance if necessary are essential.
  • Legislative Context:
    • The Wildlife Protection Act was amended to allow for the transfer of captive elephants, albeit with limitations on the movement of elephants to those with existing certificates of ownership.

What are the Shift in Legislative Landscape:

  • Previous Prohibitions: 
    • Until August 2022, the Wildlife Protection Act strictly prohibited the trade of both wild and captive elephants.
  • Introduction of Exemption: 
    • Subsequent amendments to the Act introduced an exemption, permitting the transfer of captive elephants for the first time.

Controversy and Recommendations:

  • Debate Over Exemption Clause: 
    • Despite the amendments, controversy ensued over the exemption clause, particularly its implications for elephant welfare and conservation efforts.
  • Parliamentary Committee Involvement: 
    • A Parliamentary Committee, led by Congress Rajya Sabha, recommended the deletion of the exemption clause, highlighting the need for a careful balance between tradition and conservation.
  • Retention of Exemption: 
    • Ultimately, the final version of the amended act retained the exemption clause. However, limitations were imposed on the movement of elephants, allowing transfers only to those with existing certificates of ownership

Indian Elephant:

  • Scientific Name: Elephas maximus
  • Habitat: Dry-thorn forests, moist and dry deciduous forests, tropical evergreen and semi-evergreen forests.
  • As per the 2017 Elephant Census, Assam is the state with the second-highest number of elephants, after Karnataka

Conservation status:

  • IUCN status: Endangered
  • CITES status: Appendix I
  • WPA, 1972 Schedule 

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