New move to boost jumbo ownership transfer?


Ever since the buying and selling of elephants was banned under the Wildlife Protection Act, traders have tried to finds ways to bypass the law. Money is exchanged under the guise of “gifting” elephants or secret agreements are reached and the elephants sold without a formal sale deed being drawn up.

The forest department, which has over the years come up with several ways to beat the trading in elephants, is now insisting on issuing data books to owners to help it identify the jumbos on the basis of their individual features so that they cannot pass of one elephant for another to stop the authorities from smelling a sale or the death of an animal.

“Currently a lot of the owners of elephants that die don’t inform the department and after selling their tusks, merely replace them with other elephants they may have bought from states like Bihar. It was after we came across several such cases that we decided to introduce the data books,” says a senior forest officer.

But experts argue that the move may backfire as the data book could be used as a custodian certificate and a sale deed, and give an impetus to the trade in jumbos.

“The data book will carry the name of custodians who may not have actual ownership deeds. But they could use the data book carrying their names and signed by forest officials as an ownership document for inter-state deals,” worries secretary of the Kerala Elephant Lover’s Association, V.K. Venkitachalam.

A member of the elephant squad, Dr B. Aravind, too feels the data book could be used as a benami ownership certificate and a sale document. In his view the government should make sure the owner’s name is registered with the forest department to prevent such misuse.

Also not everyone is convinced that the data books will prevent the sale of elephant tusks. Although the new provision calls for recording the date of the last cutting and measuring of the tusk, in the absence of regular checks on the elephants this will hardly stop the owners from severing their tusks and selling them, they point out.

“Its practically impossible to update a data book every six months. The most we can do is may be check the health of the animals regularly where it is required,” admits forest veterinary officer, Dr V. Sunil.

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