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Jairam Ramesh flags 'flawed' rules on transport of elephants, warns loopholes encourage illegal transfers

In his letter to the Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav, the senior Congress leader wrote that he was disappointed to see such “fundamental flaws” in the Captive Elephant (Transport or Transport) Rules 2024 even though the ministry took more than a year to formulate them.
Last Updated : 25 June 2024, 10:34 IST

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New Delhi: Former environment minister Jairam Ramesh on Tuesday asked the Union Environment Ministry to review a set of recent rules on the transport of elephants, red-flagging specific gaps that can be misused for illegal transfer of jumbos from one state to another.

In his letter to the Union Environment Minister Bhupendra Yadav, the senior Congress leader wrote that he was disappointed to see such “fundamental flaws” in the Captive Elephant (Transport or Transport) Rules 2024 even though the ministry took more than a year to formulate them.

“The rules as presently drafted, don’t close the route for both wild capture and commercial trade of captive elephants, especially from the north east to the rest of the country. These are not imaginary fears as there have been recent examples of commercial transactions of elephants from Arunachal Pradesh to Kerala, Odisha and Gujarat,” Ramesh said.

“There have been serious attempts to transfer wild caught elephants to these states from the Northeast under the garb of captive and donation.”

The former minister’s letter comes amidst concerns among environmentalists and wildlife specialists on transport of hundreds of elephants from the north east to Vantara, a Reliance owned zoo at Jamnagar in Gujarat.

Spread over an area of 3000 acres, Vantara is believed to be India’s biggest private zoo housing over 4,000 animals including the exotic ones.

A day before Ramesh wrote to his successor in the ministry, the Centre for Research on Animal Rights approached the eastern division of the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau seeking an investigation into the commercial trade of 10 elephants from the North East to Kerala for the Pooram festival circuit.

The Wildlife Protection (Amendment) Act 2022 prevents any commercial trade of elephants but allows inter-state transfer of animals for “religious” or “any other purpose.”

Ramesh said the ministry didn’t clarify what constitutes “any other purpose” in the elephant transfer rules despite making such a promise in the Parliament. “This leaves wide gaps for misuse,” he said.

The rules were notified on March 14, 2024, almost one and half years after the 2022 law was notified. The ambiguity on the clause related to elephant transfer was also debated in the Parliamentary Standing Committee meeting.

The lawmakers agreed to having an exemption on religious grounds after the ministry said more clarity would be provided in the rules, once the bill becomes an act.

After the rules were notified, a group of animal welfare organisations approached Yadav with suggestions to further modify the rules to prevent atrocities on elephants. One of their suggestions was also to define ‘any other purpose’ and specify exclusions for transfer.

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Published 25 June 2024, 10:34 IST

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