Uttarakhand High Court (HC) on August 3, 2018 banned the commercial use of elephants in the state and directed the state forest department to rescue the elephants deployed for commercial purposes within a time span of 24 hours.
The division bench comprising Justices Rajiv Sharma and Lok Pal Singh also directed the forest department to issue notices to the owners of the animals and seek an explanation from them.
Corbett which houses royal Bengal tigers attracts more than 2 lakh tourists annually. Around 40 resorts situated around Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) receive tourists throughout the year.
Many resorts keep elephants to entertain guests. However, it is not clear about the number of elephants being deployed in the state for commercial purposes.
Court’s directions for various departments
• The court asked the state government to ensure that “not more than 100 vehicles are permitted to enter in Sitabani, Bijrani and Dhela zones of Corbett including Kalagarh and Rajaji National Park, in a day.”
• Only those private gypsies and commercial gypsies would be permitted to ply to whom valid permits have been issued by the Regional Transport Office (RTO) and concerned Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs).
• The court directed the Wildlife Institute of Dehradun to carry out survey within three months to assess the carrying capacity of these zones to know the number of vehicles which can be permitted to ply to avoid minimum disturbance to the wildlife.
• The judges also directed the Chief Wildlife Warden to publish the list of permitted private/commercial gypsies with their registration numbers, owners’ name and drivers’ name in the official website.
• No private vehicle shall be permitted to ply in Sitabani, Bijrani and Dhela zones including Kalagarh and Rajaji National Park.
• The senior superintendents of police of Nainital, Udham Singh Nagar, Haridwar and Pauri districts were directed to render all assistance to the DFOs to save the elephants.
Ban on elephant joyrides
• The court termed the captivity of the elephants as being in violation of Sections 40 and 42 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1975.
• It banned joyrides being conducted by the resorts and directed the Chief Wildlife Warden through the Divisional Forest Officers (DFOs) to take over the possession of elephants from the owners.
• The elephants will be temporarily kept at Rajaji National Park, Chilla. The injured elephants will be attended to by veterinary doctors within 12 hours.
Court’s directions came on the PIL filed by Ramanagar-based NGO
The court’s directions came after advocates deliberating on a public interest litigation filed by Ramanagar-based NGO ‘Himalayan Yuva Gramin Vikas Sansthan’ informed it that elephants are chained, ill-treated and few elephants, even after becoming blind, were being used commercially by the owners of the resorts in the Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) area.
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