Amendment of Wildlife Bill in Karnataka Could Endanger Elephants, Experts Raise Concerns
Although loved by all, elephants kept in private spaces are facing animal cruelty
Many experts and conservationists have come together to show their dissent regarding the proposal for amendment of the Wildlife Protection Bill, 2022, by the central government. The bill lays down the ground to prohibit the poaching of elephants and man-elephant encounters.
This amendment is to be discussed in the winter session of Rajya Sabha. Though the same has raised concerns among experts who have written a letter to the members of the Upper House saying that they need to formulate special exceptions for the transfer of ownership of the animals used for religious purposes. They added that an amendment in the bill might encourage capturing and hunting of wild elephants.
Suparna Baksi Ganguly, who is one of the 13 signatories of the letter and works with Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre, Karnataka pointed out that this is a regressive step. She said that the transfer of captive elephants is mainly carried out using gifting or donation which actually backs the commercial sale of elephants.
Allowing the transfer as per section 43(2) is a form of wildlife crime. The signatories have mentioned in their letter that any new amendment should be carried out with the existing policy to phase out the commercial use of elephants and private captivity.
The letter stated;
Elephants are the only wild animals allowed to be owned through an exception in section 40 of the WPA, contrary to the tenets of the Wildlife Act and Constitution.
A senior officer at the forest department told that the elephants are allowed to be kept in private spaces but this has resulted in various instances of animal cruelty and such incidences are regularly being reported.
There has been an increase in man-elephant conflict in four districts of Karnataka; therefore, the state’s chief minister has formed an elephant task force in a meeting with officials. This task force will be headed by the deputy conservator of forests and the same will be set up in Chikkamagaluru, Mysuru, Kodagu, and Hassan districts which are the areas with the highest number of cases.
The elephant task force will be responsible for monitoring elephant movement close to human habitations, fields, and coffee estates and ensure making their safe movement back to the forests. The same committee will be responsible to create awareness amongst the people in the region and ask them to not explore the forest areas to avoid animal encounters. The control rooms will be set up and the contact number of the same will be shared with the locals.
The members of the task force will be provided with guns, crackers, and walkie-talkies so that they can drive elephants back into forest areas. The head of the forest force will supervise the assistant conservator of forests, range officers, and forest guards for every district’s elephant task force.