Dark Day For Animal Welfare In India

Pune courts unsympathetic to suffering of blind and sick elephants orders rescued and elephants under treatment to be sent from rescue centre back to circus!

In a shocking order by a Pune court, four suffering elephants used by a circus for illegal performances were ordered to be sent back to the Rambo Circus based on a loophole created by an inadvertent procedural flaw in the confiscation process by the enforcement authorities.

The four elephants (aged 25, 35, 41, and 52) have been forced to perform painful and unnatural tricks in the circus for decades. During evaluations of the circus, the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), both autonomous bodies of the Government of India, discovered severe violations of the law, including the illegal infliction of cruelty upon the elephants. As a result, the AWBI cancelled the circus’s permission to performance, and the CZA cancelled its recognition of the circus. The Central Zoo Authority then issued directions for the elephants to be confiscated and sent for medical treatment and rehabilitation, while the Animal Welfare Board of India also issued directions to seize the animals from the circus.

In a joint operation, the District Collector of Pune, along with local police and officers of the AWBI carried out the confiscation and handed over all four elephants to Wildlife SOS for long-term care. Dogs and horses involved in the circus were sent to other organizations (i.e., PFA Pune, ResQ, and Animal Rahat).  

While the neglected elephants were being given urgently needed medical treatment, Rambo Circus challenged the rescue of the elephants in court, seeking custody of the elephants and other animals. The court was provided with detailed health reports on all of the elephants that explained in great detail the amount of brutality and suffering they had undergone, as well as injuries to their legs, rotting footpads, overgrown toenails, severe debilitation, wounds on their mouths, and swelling from circus beatings. Statements submitted to the court also highlighted and confirmed that the elephants were chained in their own dung and urine for months. Finally, the Hon’ble Court was made aware that the circus had been forcing the elephants to perform illegally, and had been violating several guidelines and orders of the authorities.

In an astonishing decision, the court has issued an order that all four elephants rescued from Rambo Circus be returned to the circus immediately. This decision impacts the elephants regardless of their debilitated state and compromised health – not to mention the cruelty they have already suffered at the hands of this circus. The foundation for the court decision rests on procedural flaws committed by the enforcement authorities during confiscation of the elephants. The decision does not even consider the blind elephant Goldie and her abscesses, nor the behaviour of all four elephants, which is typical of elephants forced to perform in a circus and which indicates years of extensive mental and physical trauma and torture. The court order also did not consider the spiked chains on their legs, their rotting footpads, their overgrown toenails, and their many wounds.

Elephant Veterinarian Dr. Yaduraj Khadpekar said, “The blind and injured elephants have had a small taste of freedom. All the efforts in providing them medical care and treatment will be lost if they are returned to the circus.”

Another animal lover from Pune, who did not wish to be named, said, “How can the courts be so inconsiderate and send these innocent animals back to a circus that has been accused of cruelty? This is a dark and sad day for India, and a breakdown of the judicial system where the circus is making a mockery of the law and the court is strangely supporting the injustice to these animals. I hope justice prevails and the elephants get the freedom they deserve!”

Interestingly, the court order also permits the circus to use the animals for performance while not subjecting them to cruelty, but no animal can be made to perform tricks without subjecting them to cruelty or forcing them with beatings or threats.

Wildlife SOS has launched a petition to request the government and the courts to reconsider their decision to send the elephants back to the circus. The link is here: https://www.change.org/p/chiefminister-maharashtra-gov-in-four-reasons-to-cry-rescued-elephants-being-forced-back-into circus?recruiter=495528&utm_source=petitions_show_components_action_panel_wrapper&utm_medium=copylink

Please sign this petition to the Chief Minister of Maharashtra, the Chief Wildlife Warden of Maharashtra, the Police Commissioner of Pune, and the District Collector of Pune. Let them know that it will be a source of great international shame to India if they let cruelty prevail.

About Wildlife SOS: A non-profit organization, Wildlife SOS is one of the largest rescue and conservation charities in South Asia operating ten wildlife rehabilitation facilities across India, including the world’s largest sloth bear rescue center and the recently established Elephant Conservation and Care Center, which is the first in India and currently houses 22 rescued elephants. Wildlife SOS runs a tribal rehabilitation project that aims to create an alternative livelihood for poachers and other indigenous communities that used to depend on wildlife for a livelihood. A leopard rescue center, a wildlife hotline in New Delhi and Agra & Forest Watch which is an anti-poaching wildlife crime enforcement unit. More information about the organization can be found at http://www.wildlifesos.org

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