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Joymala’s case flags gaps in private ownership norms for elephants

  • Published
    19th Sep, 2022

The ongoing dispute between the Governments of Tamil Nadu and Assam over the alleged mistreatment of a temple elephant named Joymala, has brought into focus the prevailing lacunae over private ownership of elephants in India.


Why private ownership of elephants is a concern?

  • As per the MoEFCC, it’s illegal to hold elephants in captivity without ownership certificates.
  • Rules only allow for elephants to be exchanged or donated to temples or between private individuals.
  • Kerala, Uttar Pradesh, Karnataka, Assam, Tripura and Madhya Pradesh account for 96% of elephants in captivity without ownership certificates.
  • Captive elephants are provided a poor diet and inadequate food. Due to a limited diet, elephants can suffer from intestinal infections, lung-related injections, or impactions.
  • It also leads to an increase in “black marketing” of elephants.
  • Other important threats to Elephants
    • Escalation of poaching
    • Habitat loss
    • Human-elephant conflict
    • Mistreatment in captivity
    • Abuse due to elephant tourism
    • Rampant mining, Corridor destruction

Why it is happening?

  • Lack of law enforcement or governance of the private ownership of elephants in many States.

Important Animal Rights Organisation

  • Animal Welfare Board of India
  • People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA)
  • People for Animals
  • Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organizations (FIAPO) 

About Asian Elephants

  • There are about 50,000 - 60000 Asian elephants in the world. More than 60% of the population is held in India.
  • There are three subspecies of Asian elephant which are the Indian, Sumatran and Sri Lankan.
    • The Indian subspecies has the widest range and accounts for most of the remaining elephants on the continent.
  • Protection Status
    • IUCN Red List: Endangered
    • Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972: Schedule I
    • CITES: Appendix I

 About Project Elephant

  • It is a flagship programme of the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF).
  • It was launched in 1992 as a Centrally-sponsored scheme.
  • The project aims-
    • To protect elephants, their habitat & corridors.
    • To address issues of man-animal conflict.
    • The welfare of captive elephants.
  • It addresses issues of man-animal conflict and welfare of domesticated elephants.
  • The elephant numbers have not increased or decreased drastically but there is increasing pressure on the elephant habitats.
  • The elephant census is conducted once in 5 years under the aegis of Project elephant.
    • The direct elephant counting method is based on the sightings of elephants.
    • In the indirect method, surveyors follow a dung decay formula for arriving at population estimation which is being used by Tamil Nadu and Karnataka at present.
      • A variation of about 8% to 9% has been noticed between the two methods.

Important Facts

  • India has 31 Elephant Reserves. Agasthiyamalai will be the country’s 32nd elephant reserve.
  • Karnataka has the highest number of elephants (6,049), followed by Assam (5,719) and Kerala (5706).
  • World Elephant Day is an international annual event on August 12, dedicated to the preservation and protection of the world's elephants.

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