In what seems like good news for animal lovers, the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) has passed an order stating that the entry of elephants in Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane has been prohibited. On October 28, 2013, Additional PCCF passed a circular in which it has been clearly stated that the elephant is listed at S. No-2 in Schedule- 1 of the Wildlife (protection) Amendment Act 2002. The circular, a copy of which is with SUNDAY MiD DAY, states: ‘Elephants are often brought within the city limit of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane. These elephants are brought into the city to give joy rides, beg, entertain guests at weddings, act in serials and movies, bless and entertain guests at functions in temples and political rallies. All of these activities carried out by elephants are in contravention with the Wildlife Protection Act.’
A senior Forest Department official told SUNDAY MiD DAY, “Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane are densely populated urban areas. Elephants are wild animals and are ill- suited to these places. Given the external condition of densely populated urban environments, elephants in the city are prone to getting agitated easily. As a result, elephants can attack human beings. This is a direct risk to public safety and life, so, the decision of prohibiting elephants from entering these areas was necessary.”
The circular also states that the Additional PCCF office is of the opinion that none of the elephant owners can provide adequate facilities for housing, maintenance and upkeep of these animals within the city limits. “Taking all these things in consideration, we have come to the conclusion that urban areas are not suitable for keeping elephants. As a consequence, it is hereby declared that presence of elephants in the areas falling within the city limit of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane is prohibited henceforth,” said Additional PCCF Suresh Thorat.
He said that a letter has also been sent to the concerned agencies. “I have also informed and written letters to the Municipal Commissioners and Commissioners of Police of Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane, and have requested them to help us in implementing the circular,” added Thorat.
The demand for ban on elephants in the city is something that many NGOs have been asking for a long time. People for Animals Foundation had also met the Principal Secretary Forests Praveen Pardeshi and Thorat, and made a presentation on how densely populated urban areas such as Mumbai, Navi Mumbai and Thane did not provide appropriate conditions for keeping elephants.
The NGO had also brought to their notice, the risks posed to people by possible elephant attacks, the death of Bijlee, substandard living conditions of the elephants in cities, and the fact that urban environments are simply not suitable for large animals like elephants.
Animal lovers happy
“Given elephants’ innate wild nature, it is close to impossible to match the needs of these animals in highly commercial and urban environment,” said Pritish Nandy, founder trustee, People for Animals. He added that animals are not meant for exploitation in our cities, but meant for the wild. “ They are extremely intelligent animals and face unbearable cruelty for a few minutes of entertainment in cities. We thank the Forest Department for such prompt and positive action,” he said.