A plea has been moved in the Kerala High Court against the recent capture of two wild elephants which had forayed into inhabited areas in the Palakkad and Wayanad districts of the state and created panic among locals there, saying the actions of the forest department were illegal.
In the petition moved by Angels Nair, general secretary of NGO Animal Legal Force Integration, he alleged that the capture and subsequent training being provided to the two tuskers was “illegal”, as the elephants were tranquilised and caught from the forest.
He sought an investigation by the CBI or any other agency into the incident.
He also opposed the capture of four tigers from the high-range district of Wayanad in the last few months, claiming that the big cats were being kept in captivity in violation of the guidelines and the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972.
The tigers were captured by the Wildlife and Forest Department after several attacks on humans and domesticated animals by the big cats, terrorising the local populace.
‘Kerala order illegal’
Meanwhile, Nair, in his plea, contended that the two captured tuskers were being illegally trained to become “kumki” elephants — captive pachyderms used to trap and capture other elephants.
He claimed that elephant training in India was banned, and that the Kerala government order of 2018 permitting the training of “kumki” elephants was illegal.
“The state government has no administrative power to grant permission for any purpose under the Wildlife Protection Act. Such powers for the state government had been omitted by an amendment in 1982,” his petition claimed.
Therefore, not only training but also the use of “kumki” elephants was illegal, the petition said.
Nair also alleged that the training measures were cruel as water and food were denied to the elephants to tame them.
He claimed that the use of crackers, firearms, and unscientific erection of electric fences and trenches to deprive wild animals of their basic need of water and food, and obstructing their free movement was a common practice in Kerala, and a “major cause of the increase in human-wildlife conflict”.
His plea claimed that one of the two captured tuskers had 15 pellet wounds.
The life of ‘Dhoni’
Dhoni, one of the elephants captured from Palakkad, had been wreaking havoc in the state for two years before it was captured by the Forest Department officials on 23 January.
The elephant, which was earlier named PT-7 (Palakkad Tusker-7), was renamed because it caused maximum damage in the village of Dhoni and its surroundings.
Across Palakkad, news of the elephant’s capture was received with relief and glee, with people even celebrating by bursting crackers.
The tusker had been a terror for the people of the Dhoni, Malampuzha, Akathethara, and Puthupariyaram village panchayat areas.
Known for large-scale crop raiding, Dhoni was also suspected of trampling to death a 60-year-old man on a morning walk in July last year.
He was also held responsible for more than 90 percent of the elephant-human conflicts reported in the eastern regions of Palakkad.
Dhoni was captured after shooting tranquilliser darts at him. It took around 50 days for the team led by celebrated veterinarian Arun Zachariah to locate and finally capture the elephant.
Mismanaged conservation results in conflict
“The current human-wildlife conflicts in the entire state are being created by the mismanaged conservation and unscientific degradation and deforestation. Instead of rectifying the failure the department swings according to the vote bank…,” the petition by Nair alleged.
It sought directions from the high court to stop training the two tuskers and release them into the wild and quash the 2018 government order permitting the training and use of “kumki” elephants.
Besides, it also sought the release, into the wild, of the four tigers in captivity and a probe by the CBI or State Vigilance Department or any other independent agency into the allegedly illegal training of the wild elephants.