The Forest department has decided to stop giving away elephant tusks and trophies to defence personnel who want to display them as a “show of strength”.
The department recently turned down the requests of 99 defence personnel for tusks and trophies.
In a letter, a copy of which is with DH, the department said it is not possible to give away tusks any more. Also, an advisory by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change says display of trophies and tusks is discouraged under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.
This is the first time the department has taken such a stern step after 2014. Between 2008 and 2014, it gave away around 200 pairs of tusks. Over 100 applications are pending with the department, seeking permission to display tusks and trophies in the offices of defence personnel.
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (wildlife) C Jayaram said, “We will not give the tusks or trophies to anyone any more.” The department is yet to take a decision on burning the tusks. “Special incinerators are needed and we are yet to procure them,” Jayaram said.
The idea of handing over tusks and wildlife articles was mooted as it was becoming difficult for the department to guard them. It has over 10,000 tonnes of tusks and other wildlife articles in its custody. These are the ones recovered from poachers and extracted from carcasses.
Special officers guard them and the area where they are housed is under continuous CCTV vigil.
For the first time, at the Jarakabande Kaval depot on the outskirts of Bengaluru, forest staff had burnt down 20 boxes of snake skin, the pelt of spotted deer, otters, barking deer, jackals, monitor lizards, antlers and turtle shells.
“Earlier, we wanted to burn them. But since we were unable to do so, we started giving them away to defence personnel and other ministry heads to send the message that tusks and trophies have no notional value,” said a Forest department official.