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High court order may help elephant trade in Kerala

Times of India, New Delhi, October 6, 2014


Forest department is caught in a bind as it fears some recent orders of the high court will come in the way of its initiatives to curb transport of captive elephants into Kerala from other states. The latest order relates to the transport of an elephant from UP to Paravur in Kollam district, without the permission of the chief wild life warden. The forest officials had taken the elephant into custody and had filed an FIR against Shaji Kaveri of Poothakkulam near Paravur before the judicial first magistrate of Punalur. The elephant, which has been brought to the state with a temporary permit issued by the chief wildlife warden of UP, was found chained in the plot owned by Shaji, who already has seven elephants. Shaji then filed a petition before the high court, against the FIR. Justice P Ubaid of the high court in his order issued on October 1 has granted two months stay in the case as pleaded by the counsel for Shaji. Earlier, a division bench of the high court had restricted the inter-state sale of elephants in November 2007.


The order was widely welcomed by the elephant lovers, as a number of elephants were being brought to Kerala then from other states, though it went against the provisions of the Wildlife Act 1972. Now, the forest department is seeking legal advice from the advocate general to get the orders reviewed by the courts, said O P Kaler, chief wildlife warden. In another case the department has already filed an appeal against the high court order to hand over an elephant brought from outside the state to the petitioner.


The officials are also worried about the cost involved in taking an elephant into custody, if it is found to be brought to the state violating the laws. As per the present estimate the department will have to shell out Rs 8 lakh per year to maintain an elephant taken into custody. "We were trying to send back the elephant, which was brought to Kollam from UP last week, before the high court order came," said Kaler. Already the elephant was giving a tough time to its managers as it was not responding to any Malayalam commands by the mahouts. The jumbo created confusion for a while and was later taken care of. Only one mahout was able to have some rapport with the elephant, and the elephant has been given to him by the department on a bond, for management.