The Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) has asked the Rajasthan chief wildlife warden what action it has taken on a PETA India complaint that alleged over 100 elephants being used for rides at Amer Fort near Jaipur were either sick or injured.
The PETA India complaint, citing a report of the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), also alleged tusks of many of the elephants had been cut off, raising suspicion the ivory may have been sold illegally. It called for "all illegally-held" tuskers to be moved to an elephant-care centre.
Acting on the complaint, the WCCB, a statutory body established to combat organised wildlife crime in India, has asked the state's chief wildlife warden to probe the matter.
"Sick, injured, and illegally-held captive elephants are being forced to give rides to tourists in Jaipur," said PETA India Associate Director of Policy Nikunj Sharma.
"PETA India is calling for all illegally-held elephants to be seized immediately and transferred to a reputable elephant-care centre where they would never have to haul tourists around or suffer in chains again," he said.
The WCCB had sent a letter last year, directing the Chief Wildlife Warden to initiate an inquiry into the use of elephants at Amer Fort and submit a report to the bureau.
However, the Rajasthan government has still not acted, PETA India said.
The 2018 AWBI inspection of 102 elephants used for rides at Amer Fort revealed numerous apparent violations of the Wildlife (Protection) Act (WPA), 1972, the NGO said.
"The violations include the illegal transfer of custody and transport of elephants into Rajasthan from other states and the illegitimacy of many ownership certificates.
"The tusks of 47 elephants were found to have been cut, and the custodians couldn't produce any documents to prove that the Forest Department had granted them permission to do so, leading the inspectors to conclude that these tusks likely entered the illegal wildlife trade," it said.
Speaking to PTI, WCCB Additional Director Tilottama Verma said the the bureau has received complaints and its job is to support individuals or NGOs in creating pressure on authorities to investigate the matter.
"We receive many complaints from individuals and NGOs on wildlife. PETA India approached us but the investigation has to be done by the state, so we have asked the chief wildlife warden to take cognisance of the matter. The inquiry report shall be submitted to the state government itself," Verma said.
PETA India said the AWBI report also revealed that all elephants studied were found to be suffering from foot problems, including overgrown toenails and bruised footpads, and many displayed stereotypical behaviour patterns, such as repetitive swaying and head-bobbing, indicating severe psychological distress.
"All those examined were seen carrying loads heavier than 200 kilograms, which is the legal maximum for these animals on hilly terrain such as that at Amer Fort," it said.
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