Heat wave ‘cools down’ heated jumbo transfer drama, GHC cancels order
The Assam Forest department has temporarily suspended the decision to transport four elephants from Assam to Gujarat.
Earlier, even after two court orders - one from the Supreme Court of India and other from the Gauhati High court, the forest authorities were allegedly being pressured to ensure the dispatch of elephants at the earliest. The elephants were to be sent to participate in a Rath Yatra of Ahmedabad.
However, the government's decision was massively opposed by several individuals and organizations who opposed the transportation of the elephants from Assam to Gujarat. The Veterinary Experts’ Committee (VEC), in an indirect indication, also opposed the decision.
In a notice dated June 27, the office of chief conservator of forests has now kept the decision in abeyance.
"In terms of the orders of the Hon'ble Gauhati High Court dated 25/06/2019 in the PIL No. 39/2019 and in view of the prevailing heat wave conditions in the northwest parts of India, the permission granted under Section 40 (2) of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 ..... for transporting the said elephant from Assam to Gujarat vide this office order no. 396 dated 12 June, 2019 is hereby kept in abeyance," stated the notice singed by Ranjana Gupta, Principal Chief Conservator of Forest (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden, Assam.
Interestingly, Ranjana Gupta had earlier signed the order for dispatching the elephants and the entire process of transfer was being looked after by the Conservator of Forests, (Eastern Assam Circle), Jorhat.
This decision comes in after the Gauhati High Court, in response to a PIL, directed the Chief Wildlife Warden (CWW) Assam to take a decision on whether to transport four juvenile elephants from Tinsukia district to Ahmedabad in Gujarat.
The Veterinary Experts’ Committee also submitted its report regarding the issue.
“Evolutionarily, elephants, as compared to humans or most of the mammals, have a very weak thermoregulatory system owing to presence of minimal sweat glands and presence of intra-abdominal testicles which is otherwise external in case of most mammals. The body temperature of elephants is 37 degrees Celsius and their comfort zone is 25-26 degree Celsius. On the other hand, the present weather conditions through which the elephants are proposed to be transported is found to be very hot (average temperature being 45 degree Celsius). Thus, there is every possibility of heat stroke of the elephants by any means of transport,” stated the Veterinary Experts’ Committee report.
The elephants - namely Joytara, Babulal, Rupsing and Rani - were supposed to take part in the Annual Rath Yatra festival to be held from July 4 this year in Gujarat.
The Assam government had given the go-ahead for four captive elephants to undertake a perilous 70-hour journey from Assam to Gujarat to take part in a religious function. But the decision had drawn the ire of wildlife activists from across the nation.
A PIL was filed by two Assam-based animal rights activists, Nandini Baruah and Urmi Mala Das on June 21 following which, a Division Bench of Gauhati High Court comprising Chief Justice (Acting) Arup Kumar Goswami and Justice Manish Choudhury issued the directive to CWW.
The Bench disposed the PIL that sought intervention of the High Court in regard to the state government’s decision to transport the four elephants on lease for a period of six months.
In its order, the Bench expressed that it is ill-fit to make any comment as to in what manner the elephants are to be transported and stated that before any such steps are taken, the relevant circumstances have to be taken into consideration in mind as the safety of the elephants is of paramount importance and this aspect has to be considered and be left to the experts.
Bhaskar Dev Konwar, senior advocate, who appeared on the court on behalf of the petitioners, said that there was a Supreme Court order dated May 4, 2016 that restricts persons in possession of elephants from transferring them outside the state or part with them by way of their transfer in any manner.