Elephant Trafficking to Karnataka Timber Depots Rampant: Wildlife Activists (Kochi, India)


Dhinesh Kallungal, New Indian Express

Date Published

KOCHI: Hardly a few months after the state forest department tightened the noose around the captive elephant owners in the state by making registration of elephants mandatory, the wildlife activists in Karnataka found that around 18-20 captive elephants without any documents were trafficked to the timber depots of Karnataka by the Kerala elephant lobby.

Registration was made mandatory in Kerala by the Supreme Court after the apex court was appraised that many owners illegally own  elephants without proper registration documents. The officials could register only 499 captive elephants during the exercise in which department received 599 applications. The owners failed to produce the required documents for the rest of the elephants.

Elephant named Sree Kuttan, from Malappuram district, used for timber work in KarnatakaAccording to wildlife activist G Veeresh, Karnataka, the captive elephants were brought to the timber depots in Chikkamagalur on lorries from Kerala, especially from parts of Central Kerala. These elephants were brought to the timber depots after local timber merchants sought the service of elephants for logging operations in the hilly terrain. Many of the elephant owners do not have the required documents like transport permit, health certificate and certificate from the Chief Wildlife Warden etc, he said.

Among the elephants, only one elephant named Sreekuttan, a temple tusker owned by P C Saidallikutty from Malappuram, (microchip no: 00065 07B 86) was declared healthy at the time of examination by authorities and fit for transportation. However, details such as period of travel and duration of stay, which the permit must have, are absent in the documents and the elephant has already sustained injuries on its trunk and frontal region, the activists said. The age of the elephant was also marked differently (27-32) in three different documents, they added.

When contacted by ‘Express’, a senior DCF official  said there is no legal hurdle for taking elephants for logging operations in the state or other states and the captive elephant owners are free to take their elephants to Tamil Nadu and Karnataka for various functions. The officers in the rank of Divisional Forest Officer are capable of issuing permit to elephants for inter-state transportation. But they have to check all the details of the elephants, even the purpose of visit and physical fitness before issuing the permit, he said.

He also said he is on a visit to Karnataka as part of an official trip and would take up this matter with the officials concerned to see if the permits produced by the owners, if any, are original or fake. Chikkamagaluru DCF Manik told ‘Express’ that in normal circumstances officials only verify if they possess the relevant inter-state permits necessary for transportation of animals. They would interfere only if there is a case of cruelty to animals, he said.

However, the activists in Karnataka allege that 1994 Supreme Court ruling prohibits use of elephants for logging operations in Karnataka.