Guwahati: The Assam forest department has put a temporary suspension on the decision of transporting four captive jumbos to participate at a religious event in Ahmedabad following an order issued by the Gauhati High Court intervening the state government’s move, on Thursday.
In separate orders issued by the principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) and chief wildlife warden of state, owners of the four captive elephants were directed a temporary suspension to the movement of the jumbos from Assam keeping in view of the prevailing heat wave conditions in northwestern parts of India.
“In terms of the order issued by the honorable Gauhati High Court dated to 25 June, 2019 in the PIL number 39/2019, permission granted under section 40(2) of Wildlife (Protection) Act to the owner of the captive elephants with office order number 36 dated to 22 June 2019, is hereby kept in abeyance,” a statement added.
This move by the state government comes after the Gauhati High Court, while disposing of a PIL filed by a Guwahati-based NGO ‘Avinava Prayash’ on June 24, directed the forest department to issue a fresh order considering all aspects for safe transportation of the elephants.
Following the high court’s order the state government constituted a five member team of Veterinary experts to suggest upon the smooth transport of the four captive jumbos to Ahemdabad keeping in notice about the prevailing extreme weather condition and a distance of over 3000 kilometers to be covered.
Significantly, in a report submitted by the experts committee, the veterinary team informed that elephants have a very weak thermo-regulatory system owing to the presence of minimal sweat glands in their body and their comfort zone varies between 25 to 26 degree Celsius which is far lesser to the prevailing high temperature reaching up to a maximum of 50 degrees Celsius in Gujarat.
“The present weather conditions through which the elephants are proposed to be transported is found to be very hot and there is every possibility of heat stroke of the elephants by any means of transport”, the veterinary report further stated.
Senior Assam government officials after having a detailed discussion over the expert comments provided veterinary team with the Chief Wildlife Warden of the forest department, concluded that transport of elephants at this severe climatic condition is a matter of risk.
A divisional bench of Gauhati High Court, comprising Justice Arup Kumar Goswami and Justice Manish Choudhury, while hearing a plea filed by an NGO and two other animal right activists, ruled out that transportation of the jumbos will depend upon the comment put forwarded by the experts as safety of elephants is of paramount importance and all aspects has to be considered.
Earlier, the railway department in an order issued made it clear that dispatch the elephants by train would not be done until some issues related to the safety of jumbos were resolved. Moreover, seeking a “clarification” from the state forest department on the interim issued by Supreme Court order of 2016 it clearly stated that dispatching of the jumbos would depend on the Gauhati High Court’s judgement in the case.
The elephants, all belonging to upper Assam, were scheduled to be transported to Ahmedabad for taking part in the inaugural ceremony of a newly-constructed Jagannath Temple. Union home minister Amit Shah is likely to grace the inaugural function scheduled on July 4.
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