PETA India has sent a legal notice to the Kerala government seeking withdrawal of its February 26 order allowing the state Chief Wildlife Warden to give ownership certificates for 289 illegally held captive elephants.
Through this order, the Chief Wildlife Warden provides an opportunity to people keeping captive elephants in illegal custody to be issued ownership certificates, PETA said in a statement in Thiruvananthapuram.
PETA said this contradicts the spirit of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, which prohibits illegal capture, trade and custody of wild animals such as elephants, and the purpose of the August 18, 2015 interim order of the Supreme Court.
Through the February 26 order, Kerala had acted in favour of illegal owners of elephants, it said and asked the state government to withdraw it and also withdraw the ownership certificates issued as per the order.
The state should penalise owners of the 289 elephants in Kerala who do not have valid ownership certificate, PETA said.
The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, had allowed the declaration of captive elephants either within 30 days of its enactment or during the period of an amnesty scheme notified by the central government in 2003, the animals rights body said.
The 2003 amnesty scheme was offered through Declaration of Wildlife Stock Rules, 2003, which required wildlife articles to be declared within 180 days from the date of notification of the Rules (ie, 18 April to 18 October 2003).
Though the Kerala government on February 3, 2012 had asked the Ministry of Environment and Forests and Climate Change for an extension of the amnesty period, the request was denied, it said.
"By providing amnesty to owners of ill-gotten elephants, Kerala is propping up the cruel and illegal elephant trade and making a mockery of the Wildlife Protection Act," said PETA India Director of Veterinary Affairs Manilal Valliyate.
"The Supreme Court has ordered Kerala to take action against these law-violating elephant abusers, and that's exactly what PETA is calling on the government to do."
Capturing an elephant is prohibited under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Yet many captive elephants are thought to have been captured illegally from the wild, separated from their mothers as babies, beaten into submission and transported to Kerala to be used as tourist attractions and in temples.