355 Elephants ‘Leased’ By Assam Remains Untraceable: RTI Report

355 Elephants ‘Leased’ By Assam Remains Untraceable: RTI Report

Assam has, over the years, transferred 355 elephants to other states through an ambiguous leasing system since 2003 and none of these animals has returned, and many are not even traceable, an RTI report stated.

"None of these animals has returned, and many are not even traceable," Sonitpur based RTI activist Dilip Nath said here on Sunday.

"Of these animals, 24 have been reportedly sold," he alleged.

According to Nath, RTI documents have revealed that 8 elephants have been sent from Doomdooma Forest Division, 23 from South Wildlife Division in Nagaon, 17 from Digboi, 3 from Dibrugarh, 10 from Golaghat, 3 from Tinsukia, 20 from Sivasagar, 15 from Eastern Assam Wild Life Division, 10 from Dhemaji, 31 from Lakhimpur, 2 from Sonitpur and 7 elephant had been sent from West Kamrup Forest Division.

Nath alleged that senior officials of forest department are involved in leasing out the elephants to other states.

"An elephant Babulal was sent to Jagannath Mandir in Gujarat for religious purpose on December 8, 2019. However, the department did not take any initiative to bring it back to the state. It was sent by East Assam Circle of DFO Jorhat," he said.

"The state's Wildlife Crime Prevention Unit (WCPU) in a report on captive elephants in December 2007, said 259 elephants were transferred outside the state between 2003 and 2007. Records with the state forest department said 61 elephants had been transferred since 2008," he added.

Due to this, Nath has decided to move Gauhati High Court in order to curb such transfers or transportation and also bring back the captive elephants after the expiry of the permission.

Furthermore, Nath asserted that elephants are sold in the guise of a lease, whose term is usually not mentioned. It violates the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 through this system as monetary transaction is involved in the process.

The Act states that – "No person having in his possession captive animal, animal article, trophy or uncured trophy in respect of which he has a certificate of ownership shall transfer by way of sale or offer for sale or by any other mode of consideration of commercial nature, such animal or article or trophy or uncured trophy."

Forest officials dealing with the transfer of the elephants allegedly get a cut from the sale disguised as lease.

As per investigations, most transfers are made on a common plea that the owner of the elephant is poor and does not have the resources to maintain his elephants.

Assam currently requires the Captive Elephants (Management and Maintenance) Rules, the draft of which was awaiting the approval of the State Cabinet.

In 2018, Congress MP Shashi Tharoor had raised questions in Parliament regarding transportation of elephants from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh to temples of Kerala. Tharoor said that there were 518 elephants in Kerala without ownership certificate and majority of them were brought from the Northeast.

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