Elephants of Assam, be it in the captive or in the wild, have been the worst victims of the illegal animal trade in India.
According to reports compiled by the Northeast Now, a total of 61 elephants had been sent out of Assam between 2008 and 2015.
While elephant smugglers eyed the captive-born elephants for sale outside the state, even juvenile elephants were caught from the jungles, for the illegal trade.
Unfortunately, there is no record of the return of the 61 elephants with the Assam Forest Department.
And in most cases, the forest officials don’t know the present locations and well being of the elephants.
As per the record, in 2009, as many as 15 elephants were sent outside Assam. Similarly, 20 elephants were transported in 2014 from the state.
It is definite that all the elephants which were sent out of Assam between 2008 and 2015 were sold at high prices.
Fearing that the unscrupulous traders would sell more and more elephants from Assam, on September 24, 2015, O.P. Pandey, the then Chief Wildlife Warden of Assam had issued an order and stopped movement of elephants to other states.
Pandey’s order (WL/FG7/16/TP/Pt-C/2014-15) was under Section 43(2) of the Wildlife (Protection Act, 1972, and movement of elephants to other states will remain suspended till further order.
Interestingly, even after O.P. Pandey’s retirement, there has been no movement of elephants from Assam to any other state from 2016 to 2018.
It is still not known whether Ranjana Gupta, the incumbent Chief Wildlife Warden has revoked O.P. Pandey’s order banning movement of elephants outside the state or not.
Can the Assam Forest Department allow transportation of any elephant outside the state without revoking O.P. Pandey’s order?
While animal rights activists fought tooth and nail to stop the transportation of the four elephants to the Jagannath Temple in Assam, the issue of O.P. Pandey’s order may again put the Assam Forest Department on the back foot.
OP Pandey’s successor, Bikash Brahma had also initiated a lot of steps to stop transfer of elephants from Assam to other states. Brahma had framed a set of strict rules on elephant transportation.
Brahma had vetoed the set of rules by R.K. Borah, a government advocate of the Gauhati High Court, and had even placed it for approval of the Assam cabinet.