The Centre for Research on Animal Rights (CRAR) and the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) are demanding the government of Karnataka, a state in the southwestern region of India, to immediately stop the capture of wild elephants under Operation Jumbo and replace it with a comprehensive plan of action to mitigate human-elephant conflicts.
The complainants claim several elephants have already died during such operations, including a popular one named Arjuna, whose death prompted the Karnataka Forest Department to temporarily stop the operation which now has resumed. The department has captured 40-50 wild elephants in the Hassan-Kodagu region claiming this was done in an attempt to address incidents of human-elephant conflict.
Alok Hisarwala, lawyer-activist and founder of the CRAR, said to The India Express, “Capture of elephants from the wild is an egregious exercise of the power embedded under Section 11 of the Wildlife Protection Amendment Act which is also leading to the death of innocent wild elephants (a protected Schedule I species). It must be stopped at once.”
Bharati Ramachandran, CEO of the FIAPO, said, “The use of capture is more a sensationalist smokescreen to appease the general public, and in effect, does not ensure peaceful coexistence. Commercial encroachments of forest lands, especially elephant corridors, are the main drivers of human-elephant conflict. Elephant reserves must be recognised as legally protected areas, like tiger reserves. Even after 10 years since the 2013 High Court order, the government has failed to declare notified forest areas within elephant corridors as reserve forests under Section 17 of the Karnataka Forest Act… We also need to undo the damage caused by unrestricted encroachments by removing them from critical elephant corridors and habitats. This can only be achieved through strong political will to ensure the protection of elephants and humans.”
The three key demands of these groups are the formation of guidelines to regulate the exceptional power under Section 11 of the Wild Life Protection Amendment Act, 2022, to issue capture orders to mitigate conflicts under Section 11 only on rare exceptions, and the power in Section 11 be delegated to an expert body consisting of scientists, ecologists, forest officers, lawyers, and members of the civil society.