GUWAHATI, June 18 - Ignoring expert opinions, the forest department has gone ahead in transporting four elephants from Tinsukia to a temple in Gujarat in a cramped and closed train wagon.
The move has drawn sharp reactions from wildlife activists, including from some in the forest department itself, but sources said the �pressure is from the top�.
Between 2011 and 2015, some 40 domestic elephants were transferred outside the State for specific periods, but none of them were brought back.
Railway sources confirmed that the State government has paid an initial fee of Rs 1,500 for transportation of the elephants. The date of movement has not yet been finalized.
An official source confirmed that the Chief Wildlife Warden has granted permission for the transit for six months, chips fixed on the elephants and other formalities done.
However, the permission was granted despite opinions from veterinarians that transporting the elephants in that manner may have adverse impact on the animals.
A veterinarian, whose opinion was sought on the transportation of the elephants inside non-AC coaches in such extreme weather conditions, had advised against the move.
Sources said the elephants are meant to be used at the Jagannath Temple Rath Yatra at Ahmedabad scheduled for July first week. Forest officials, however, said the �roles of the elephants� in Ahmedabad has not been defined.
�Moving the elephants to Ahmedabad in this heat will compromise their welfare. One can imagine travelling in a closed wagon in this heat. Moreover, the roles of the elephants are not defined. The host destination should first demonstrate their capabilities in terms of elephant housing and husbandry,� a wildlife activist said.
Activists are also not sure if elephants can be sent outside the State like this. Forest officials claimed that elephants can be transferred outside the State for a maximum of six months, though their ownership cannot change.
Section 43(1) of the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972 (WLPA) states that no person having in his control or possession a captive animal in respect of which he has a certificate of ownership shall transfer such captive animal by any mode of consideration of commercial nature. Therefore, legal experts say, if the elephants are being transferred to Ahmedabad by way of lease, if there is any sum of money or other consideration involved in the transfer, it would be in violation of Section 43 of the WLPA.