Inter-State Transport of Captive Elephants: Tradition and Welfare

Image of trees, grass, and mammals, reflecting the theme of tradition and welfare in inter-state transport of captive elephants
Inter-State Transport of Captive Elephants: Tradition and Welfare

In a significant development, the Central government has issued an order permitting the inter-state transportation of captive elephants through a Gazette notification. This move has been welcomed by festival organizers, particularly Paramekkavu Devaswom, one of the organizers of Thrissur Pooram, who had been advocating for an amendment to the Wildlife Act to address the shortage of captive elephants for various rituals and festivities.

Shortage of Captive Elephants

The shortage of captive elephants has been a pressing concern for festival organizers in Kerala, particularly in Thrissur, where the famous Thrissur Pooram requires close to 100 elephants for various rituals. The latest development is expected to alleviate this shortage and benefit the organizers, who have already begun preparations for the event, including booking elephants and making parasols for the parade.

Conditions for Inter-State Transportation

The Gazette notification outlines specific conditions under which captive elephants can be transported to other states. The elephant must undergo a thorough fitness examination by a veterinary expert, who will issue a fitness certificate. The owner of the elephant is required to submit an application along with the veterinary expert’s report to the Chief Wildlife Warden of the state to which the elephant is being transported. The Chief Wildlife Warden has seven days to forward the application to an officer not below the rank of deputy conservator of forest.

Circumstances for Transfer

The transfer of captive elephants will be allowed only under three specific circumstances. Firstly, if the owner is no longer in a position to maintain the elephant. Secondly, if the elephant can receive better upkeep compared to its present circumstances. Lastly, if the Chief Wildlife Warden deems it fit and proper considering the better upkeep of the elephant.

Mandatory Requirements

The notification mandates that the elephant must be accompanied by a mahout and an assistant during transportation. A certificate of fitness stating that the elephant is not in musth and its health condition is suitable for transportation must be obtained from competent authorities. Additionally, the captive elephant must be placed under quarantine for a specific period after the transportation.

Importance of Elephants in Kerala’s Festivals

Elephants play a crucial role in various festivals and religious ceremonies in Kerala, particularly in the famous Thrissur Pooram. The Pooram is a grand festival that showcases the rich cultural heritage of the state and attracts thousands of visitors from across the country and the world. The presence of magnificently adorned elephants is an integral part of the festivities, and their shortage has been a cause for concern among organizers and elephant owners.

Balancing Tradition and Animal Welfare

The use of elephants in festivals and religious ceremonies is deeply rooted in Kerala’s cultural traditions. However, it is essential to strike a balance between preserving these traditions and ensuring the welfare of the animals. The government, festival organizers, and elephant owners must work together to develop guidelines and best practices that prioritize the well-being of the elephants while allowing for their participation in cultural events.

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