By Rachna Singh
JAIPUR: The Animal Welfare Board, Chennai, recently gave permission to a two-year-old baby elephant to be transported to Mumbai from Jaipur for film-shooting. Violating the basic tenets of parenting in elephants, weaning away an elephant calf from the mother before the age of five can be extremely traumatic for the elephants.
"Elephants keep going for a lot of movie shoots all over the country. It is about three months ago that the baby elephant 'Suman' was given permission by the board to be transported to Mumbai for a shoot. We also have the permission of tourism department," claimed its owner, Shahid.
Ironically, Suman has been taken to Mumbai for a tele-serial, 'Bandhan' that revolves around the bond between a mother and her calf.
"Elephants are tactile and highly social animals. The most important thing in the world to a baby elephant is its mother and its extended family. Female elephants are particularly vulnerable to psychological despair at being away from their natural family. Baby elephants need milk and cannot live without it during their first three 3 years of life," said a conservationist.
The elephant care guidelines issued by the ministry of environment and forests said, "The Asian elephant has been accorded highest protection by listing them in Schedule I of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972. The ministry is quite concerned about its protection, care and management. Accordingly, a detailed guideline for the care and management of captive elephants is being circulated. It is requested to ensure its implementation in letter and spirit."
Besides, according to the transportation guidelines of MoEF, "At least a 12-hour rest should be allowed to elephants for every 12 hours of journey by trucks and at a given time should not be transported for more than 50 km in a vehicle." Now Mumbai is 1,141 km from Jaipur, and Suman was transported to Mumbai on a truck that takes seven days to reach Mumbai.
At one end, the animal welfare activists, People for Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) and Animal Welfare Board of India created so much hue and cry over the 'Elephant Festival', but on the flip side, permitting a baby elephant to be transported in such a way, away from the biological mother, was not tantamount to cruelty. It's been three months that the baby has been away from the mother. However contradicting that, Shahid said, "Suman is shooting with her maternal aunt."
No permission for 'elephant festival'
The famous elephant festival which was scheduled a day before Holi has been cancelled for the second consecutive year in 2014. Sources said that Animal Welfare Board (AWB) did not respond to the permission for using elephants in the festival sought by the tourism department.
The Animal Welfare Board of India had written to the tourism department that there is violation in exhibiting the elephants. Buckling under pressure of animal rights activists, the department of tourism had decided to scale down the popular elephant festival.