Vets against ‘licence to dart’; authorities adamant (India)


A. Satish, The New Indian Express

Date Published

PALAKKAD: The Forest Department’s insistence that veterinarians, who are deputed to dart captive and wild elephants when they go berserk, should possess a valid licence issued by the Animal Husbandry Department (AHD) has received a cold response from the vets. 

In a state where umpteen ‘poorams’ and ‘velas’ sporting caparisoned elephants take place, there are hardly 10 vets holding a valid licence to dart the pachyderms when they cause destruction to life and property. Vets feel their experience in darting the elephants is enough. But the authorities will have none of it. 

“The argument the AHD vets who come under the Veterinary Council Act need not possess a licence to dart elephants is invalid. 

Vets darting animals without licence will be considered to have committed an offence. 
A licence is necessary as firing darts requires special skill,” said Chief Wildlife Warden K J Varughese. “At present, there are only three veterinary doctors on deputation with the Forest Department. One is the chief forest veterinary surgeon and the other two are assistant veterinary officers, one at Munnar and the other at Wayanad. We are planning to post seven more persons as assistant veterinary officers in different districts. All applicants from AHD will be provided licences after training,” Varughese said. 

AHD Deputy Director B Aravind, who has darted around 100 elephants in the state, said, “Just three-four applications for licence have been received from Palakkad, which along with Thrissur hosts a large number of functions in connection with temple festivals. Palakkad and Idukki have been facing wild elephant menace.” 

A veterinarian who regularly accompanied elephant squads said the vets’ reluctance in getting a licence stems from the fact what they do is risky. “The Pooram committee deposits `2,000 with AHD when an elephant runs amok. The vet who is deployed to dart it is not provided a vehicle or any extra incentive. Earlier, vets deputed in elephant squads received allowance. This was discontinued. The Forest Department also asks vets to take personal accident coverage of `5 lakh,” the vet said. 

Thrissur’s K Panicker, who has darted more than 500 elephants, said experience counted and there was no need for a separate licence from the Forest Department. Dr P B Giridas concurred and said the insistence on a separate licence will enable a vet in rejecting requests by owners and committee members during emergencies saying he or she does not have a licence. 

‘Vets may reject people’s summons’ 

P Shashikumar, general secretary, Elephant Owners Federation, said the primary hassle encountered is the AHD vets’ belief they are amply qualified to fire tranquilisers.

“For them, darting is simply administering of an injection. But the Forest Department’s insistence on licence will entangle them in legal complexities in case there are any issues. Another danger is vets may reject people’s summons. But since both AHD and Forest Department are being handled by the same minister, the issue can be settled amicably,” Shashikumar said.