THIRUVANANTHAPURAM: Can the Forest Department legally seek the ‘market value’ of an animal whose trade has been prohibited? This is the question being raised by animal activists after the Department has decided to introduce the renewal of elephant ownership certificate. In the application for the 'renewal of the ownership certificate of an elephant', the Department has sought from the contractor/owner 'the present market value' of the elephant in their custody as the 16th question. “How can the Department ask for the market value when a market for elephants is legally non-existent?
Is the Department attempting to legalise the black market for elephants,” asks M N Jayachandran, the Idukki SPCA (Society for the Prevention of Cruelty Towards Animals) secretary. The secretary of Heritage Animal Task Force, Mr V K Venkitachalam, said the question was a flagrant violation of the directives laid down by the Wildlife Control Bureau. “The renewal application itself should be withdrawn with immediate effect,” he said.
In an advisory issued to all the states in August 2012, the WCB had warned against the tendency of enforcement agencies to impute monetary value to wildlife and wildlife articles. “Trade in wildlife articles is prohibited and there is no basis for such monetary valuation,” the advisory said. Jayachandran said that such a move would apply more stress on the wildlife.
The 2012 advisory of the Wildlife Control Bureau had emphasized this point. “Some of the habitual wildlife criminals during their interrogations revealed that they switched over to illegal wildlife trade from other criminalities such as narcotics due to lower risk and perceived profits. Some first-time wildlife criminals had reported to such offences after reading about high values of wildlife articles in the newspapers,” the advisory said.
Additional principal chief conservator of forests Om Prakash Kaler admitted that there was a problem. “We will look into the issue more closely and withdraw the question immediately,” he said.