KOCHI: It seems the Forest Department’s amnesty scheme for lawful owning of captive elephant tusks under the Declaration of Wild life Stock Rules,2003, appears to have backfired to some extent, as the ivory tusk traders arrested by the Forest Department sleuths from Delhi confessed to officials that their ivory tusk artifact stock comprises not only wild elephant tusks, but also captive elephants tusks from Kerala.
According to officials in the Forest Department, the amnesty scheme introduced in 2003 was basically to provide an opportunity to the common citizen to regularise wildlife articles such as ivory tusks, which might have been in the family for generations. Many influential people from the state utilised this opportunity, by declaring the articles they possess and received ownership certificate from the government.
According to the Declaration of Wild Life Stock Rules, 2003, anyone in possession of a scheduled wild animal/s or an article made from any scheduled animal, wholly or in part, needs to declare it to the Forest Department of their respective State/Union Territory in a prescribed format, along with photographs of the objects within 180 days (from April 18).
And, possession of these items without an ownership certificate (now provided under the new Amnesty Scheme of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972), is tantamount to unlawful possession of government property, and hence, punishable.
V K Venkitachalam, general secretary of Heritage Animal Task Force, told Express that as many as 67 people reportedly made use of this scheme and received ownership certificates from the state government under the Act.
But strangely, there is no mechanism to monitor or ensure that they still keep the artifacts intact.
Forest officials admitted that out of the 487 kg elephant tusks they seized from the custody of Delhi traders, 90 per cent of the contraband were sourced from Kerala by the traders.
It means that either the traders to some extent have succeeded in sourcing captive elephant tusks from the owners who legally and illegally possess them in Kerala, or from poachers who had gone on a shooting spree in the forests of Kerala, killing scores of wild elephants.
G Harikumar IFS, principal chief conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and chief wildlife warden, said the Department would hold an inquiry into this aspect, and there was a chance for some legal or illegal owners falling prey to the designs of traders.