Union Minister for Woman and Child Development Maneka Gandhi has reportedly written to the Ministry of Environment and Forests (MoEF), to stop parading of elephants in Kerala.
In the letter that is also addressed to the state’s chief minister, Gandhi asked for all religious institutions which own or house captive elephants, to be categorised as modern zoos. This means that such institutions will be bound to follow the rules as per the Central Zoo Authority (CZA).
Categorizing them as modern zoos will not only ban parading, but will also ensure that captive elephants are treated at par with those housed in the country’s zoos, thereby granting them facilities that are otherwise not provided.
The rules make taming of elephants and chaining them illegal, and prescribes free movement of elephants in their enclosures.
Animal welfare activists in the state have welcomed the move, more so as they believe that the new directive will be in favour of the ongoing case at the Supreme Court against parading of elephants in temple festivals. The case was filed by Bengaluru-based Wildlife Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (WRRC).
“With the next hearing scheduled on January 18, we consider this move as the last hope that will strengthen the case. The temple administrations in Kerala run in the model of a zoo. They charge people to see the elephants that are held captive. Elephants urinate around 17 times a day and they need space to move around post urination. Elephants in Kerala are hardly given that space, which explains their foot diseases,” said Venkitachalam, secretary, Heritage Animal Task Force (HATF).
He points out that the Animal Welfare Board of India, earlier in October, had asked MoEF to issue a directive against parading of elephants, especially in the wake of the festival season in Kerala beginning from November.
An 8-day-long festival, Vrishkikotsavam, began at Tripunithura temple on Monday and it will see 15 elephants being paraded.
“Not only are they breaking the law by parading them, but they are also violating multiple guidelines prescribed by the board. The temple administration use the same 15 elephants for parading on all the eight days,” Venkitachalam points out.