Sangita Iyer, an Overseas Citizen of India (OCI), has filed an instant writ-petition at the Gauhati High Court with the prayer to immediately stop the transportation of the four juvenile elephants from Assam to the Jagannath Temple of Ahmedabad.
The petitioner, a permanent resident of Toronto in Canada, has requested the Gauhati High Court to stop the transportation of the elephants till the weather is conducive and the legal status of the two elephants, allegedly captured from the wild, are established.
It has been reported that four juvenile elephants will be transported from Tinsukia in Upper Assam to the Jagannath Temple in Ahmedabad, and the Assam Forest Department has also granted permission for the transportation.
Iyer, a multiple award-winning nature and wildlife journalist and filmmaker, said it is going to be a grueling 96-hour journey for the four elephants under extreme heat.
She is an internally acclaimed animal rights activist, and executive director of Voice of Asian Elephants Society.
Iyer is the executive producer and director of the award-winning documentary film Gods in Shackles.
The film has won 13 international film festival awards, and was nominated at the United Nations General Assembly by the International Elephant Film Festival and CITES.
“These juvenile elephants are incapable of handling the brutal temperatures hovering at 50 degrees Celsius. They are also being transported in a cooped-up metal buggy which will heat up considerably,” the petitioner said.
Iyer, a recipient of the prestigious Nari Shakti Puraskaar, said the four-day long perilous journey will cause unimaginable suffering to these sentient beings, as they will be inside a goods train container with absolutely no air conditioning or other ventilation provisions.
She said India is currently under the spell of a horrific heat-wave that is killing hundreds of people in North India.
“Elephants do not have sweat glands nor do they have pores, and they cannot release the heat from their body,” Iyer said.
Under such extreme heat conditions, internal body temperatures could surpass dangerous levels, causing collapse and sudden death of elephants, she said.
“Elephants cool off by soaking in mud pools, dipping in lakes, splashing mud and water, and constantly fanning their ears,” he said, adding, “However, in a cooped-up container, traveling under intense heat for four days they will not only be dehydrated, but could also potentially die from a heat stroke.”
A devoted Hindu, Iyer argued that there are no Hindu scriptures purporting such appalling treatment of elephants – the most tolerant, intelligent and social animals – to make Lord Jagannath happy.
“In fact, the Lord would shed tears of blood and curse those who inflict such suffering on His Divine creations,” she said.
Iyer said elephants are India’s Heritage Animal, and categorized as Schedule 1 animal IUCN. India is home to 60 per cent of the Asian elephant population. “However, these animals are being treated atrociously in every single state,” she said.
The animal rights activist said the four elephants are being treated like commodities. “Private owners from Assam leased them out for money to the Jagannath Temple, and devotees who will also donate huge money,” Iyer said.
“Is it not ironic that the same animal worshipped in India is being commodified by the very same people who worship them?” she maintained.
Quoting media reports, Iyer said “high political pressure” steered the decisions of the forest officials who abused the Wildlife Protection Act. “Instead of protecting the four elephants, Assam’s forest officials acted in bad faith.” she said.