The Madras High Court (HC) has directed the Tamil Nadu government to ensure that no private person captures an elephant except for their treatment after the forest department informed the court on Friday that 63 elephants, mostly from Assam and Arunachal Pradesh, are owned by temples and private individuals in the state.
“The state should ensure that no further elephant is taken into captivity except for the purpose of treatment of such elephants if found unable to support itself in the wild. No private person may capture any elephant or keep the same except those already existing,” a Bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice PD Audikesavalu said in an interim order on a public interest litigation (PIL) filed by activist Rangarajan Narasimhan.
The PIL stated that temples owning elephants should take good care of them and “allot huge tracts of lands with green cover to house” the animals and “ensure free movement of the pachyderms whenever they were not required to be taken to the temples to participate in festivities”, according to The Hindu.
Subsequently, in an affidavit filed with the HC on Friday, the forest department informed that 127 elephants are in captivity in Tamil Nadu with 31 maintained by temples, 32 owned by private individuals and 64 in special camps run by the department.
According to the affidavit, one Lila Bora has the licence for 15-year-old female elephant named Prerona, held by the Tirupparankundram Subramania Swamy Temple, Madurai.
Similarly, one Pradip Doley, who also beings to Assam, holds the licence for 14-year-old female elephant Joon, maintained by Kallazhagar temple, in Madurai. Assam’s Girin Moran owns 18-year-old female elephant Joymala, held by Srivilliputtur Andal Temple, Virudhunagar.
Appearing before Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P.D. Audikesavalu, government counsel C. Harsha Raj said the department had begun cataloguing all personal details, including the ancestry, of every individual elephant in captivity in the State as per orders passed by the court early this month and that the department would require one more month to complete the process and submit the details.
Government counsel C Harsha Raj informed the court that the department had begun cataloguing the personal details of every individual elephant in captivity in the state following the HC’s directions early this month. However, Prakash Sasha, co-founder of New Delhi-based animal protection organisation Elsa Foundation, an intervener in the matter, said the department had informed the Union ministry of environment, forest and climate change in January 2019 that 86 elephants were being held by temples and private individuals. He insisted that the department must explain the missing 23 elephants.
The court adjourned the case till October 21 and directed the department to furnish details of elephants in captivity in the state in the last five years to the ministry.