Delhi Zoo will soon be bidding farewell to its three elephants. In fact, elephants will no longer be seen in any zoo or circus in the country after the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) issued a notice on Monday to the effect that all of these animals in zoos, numbering about 140, should be sent to national parks, sanctuaries and tiger reserves as soon as possible.
According to sources, the circular states that a zoo environment is not the best place for the large animals and they should be shifted to national parks with immediate effect. "CZA's order is binding on all zoos. Elephants are large animals and require a large area to move about freely. The environment of a zoo can be very restrictive. The animals have great use for departmental work, eco-tourism, patrolling etc and a decision has been taken to send them to national parks and tiger reserves where they can be under the supervision of mahauts," said A N Prasad, director, Project Elephant.
According to Dr B K Gupta, evaluation and monitoring officer of CZA, India had 140 elephants in 26 zoos and 16 circuses as on March 31 2009. "Of these, Mysore and Trivandrum have the largest number at 9 and 8 respectively.
Delhi and Mysore are the only two zoos that have African elephants. The decision was taken after evaluating conditions of elephants at various zoos and circuses. We found that circuses specially were not following standards set under the Recognition of Zoo Rules, 1992," he said.
Delhi Zoo director D N Singh confirmed that they had received the order though he restrained from elaborating on it. Sources said that Delhi Zoo's resident Asiatic pachyderms, Rajlakshmi and Hira, and its sole African member Shankar would be moved to Jim Corbett National Park sometime soon. Shankar had been gifted to former president Shankar Dayal Sharma by the Zimbabwian government.
Sources explained that the various zoos would carry out this order in consultation with the chief wildlife wardens of their specific states and the CZA.
Environmentalists saw this as a positive move though some had reservations on the shifting of all elephants as that would be contrary to the principal of ex-situ conservation."There is merit in this decision. It is best for them to be as close to their natural habitat as possible. Elephants needs a lot of space to exercise and move about in and they are being deprived that space in zoos and circuses," said Samir Sinha, head of traffic, WWF India.