NGO files objections against the exchange citing cruelty
Mysuru: The Mysuru Zoo’s proposal to exchange elephants for white Rhinos from the Singapore Zoo under Animal Exchange Programme has drawn strong criticism from an NGO which has filed objections against it on cruelty grounds.
The Bengaluru-based Elsa Foundation, an animal and environment charity, is also co-ordinating with like-minded organisations in its bid to prevent the exchange process and has written to the Central Zoo Authority of India (CZA) and The Ministry of Environment & Forests (MoEF) to stop the process, citing cruelty to animals besides questioning its legality.
Prakash Sasha, Co-Founder of Elsa Foundation, in a letter to the The Member Secretary, CZA, New Delhi, has stated “CZA notification issued in 2009 bans Zoos from keeping elephants. The elephant calves in question are not owned by Mysuru Zoo. When these calves are not owned by them, how the Zoo can transfer these calves to Singapore Zoo? This process is illegal. Apart from this, selling elephants in the form of transfer/exchange/gifting etc., is banned and it is illegal. It is also a violation of Wildlife Protection Act. Forest Department, that was formed with primary responsibility of conservation of species, doing such actions that are against conservation and also ignoring the welfare of the animals, is shocking.”
Citing CZA Guidelines for Exchange or Transfer of Animals between Zoos dated 2.11.2005, Prakash, in the letter, has stated that the CZA guidelines state that there should be adequate housing and upkeep facilities at the recipient Zoo and viability of species population group at the donating Zoo. The point regarding the viability of species population group at the donating Zoo should take into account certain sensitive facts about mega-herbivores like elephants which are supremely intelligent, social and community animals as they are well-known for forming life long attachments and live in close knit groups, often related. Not only are there strong bonds between related females, but males also visit the same herds where they had their birth. To isolate or tear them apart from such family groups is extremely cruel and totally against the interest of the animal, he added.
He has also said that CZA Guidelines also state that preference would be given for transfer of animal in the normal habitat range of species concerned and added that the Singapore Zoo does not come under the range country for Elephants. He has further stated that if the CZA permits this transfer or exchange to happen, it will be akin to Zimbabwe’s sale of Elephant calves to China, which has come under tremendous criticism worldwide.
Meanwhile, C. Ravishankar, Mysuru Zoo Executive Director, speaking to Star of Mysore yesterday morning, said that a proposal to exchange two 7-year-old female elephants for a pair of White Rhinos from the Singapore Zoo was sent in 2015, which is still pending.
He further said that he had received a letter from Elsa Foundation and added that the Mysuru Zoo had sent a letter to the Singapore Zoo in this regard and the Singapore Zoo has replied stating that they have trained mahouts and staff to take care of the Elephants as the Zoo already have five Elephants which are healthy.
Stating that Mysuru Zoo is the only Zoo in the country that is permitted to house White Rhinos as it has already housed various Rhino species including White Rhinos, Ravishankar said that the letter from the Elsa Foundation has been forwarded to the CZA and a reply was awaited.