Nainital: The Uttarakhand High Court on Friday banned the commercial use of elephants in Corbett Tiger Reserve beside restricting the number of vehicles entering its ranges in a day to 100. The order came after the court was apprised that elephants were chained and ill-treated and some of them were used commercially by the owners of the resorts in Corbett Tiger Reserve area despite being blind, causing immense cruelty to the pachyderms.
The division bench of Justice Rajeev Sharma and Lokpal Singh held that their captivity was in violation of sections 40 and 42 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1975. "The chief wildlife warden through the concerned DFOs is also directed to issue notices to the owners of the elephants to explain under what law they are using the elephants commercially, including joyrides, in breach of the Wildlife Protection Act," the court said.
It further directed the chief wildlife warden through the DFOs to take over the possession of elephants from the owners by issuing proper documents for their treatment, medical examination and upkeep within 24 hours.
The elephants shall be temporarily kept at Rajaji National Park, Chilla. The injured/maimed elephants shall be attended to by the veterinary doctors within 12 hours from today, the order said.
The high court also directed the state government that not more than 100 vehicles, including private and commercial gypsies, be permitted to enter Sitabani, Bijrani and Dhela zones of Corbett Tiger Reserve, including Kalagarh and Rajaji National Park, in a day. Only vehicles with valid licenses issued by the RTO and concerned DFOs? would be allowed, it said.
The Wildlife Institute, Dehradun, was directed to carry out a survey within three months to assess the carrying capacity of these zones for the number of vehicles which could be permitted to ply to avoid disturbance to wildlife. No private vehicle shall be permitted to ply in Sitabani, Bijrani, Dhela zones including Kalagarh and Rajaji National Park.
The order came after the court was apprised that there was no restriction on the number of vehicles plying in Ramnagar forest. On Thursday, hearing the same PIL, the court had taken a strict view of deaths of tigers in quick succession in the state, and had warned the government that "if no categorical assurance for the deployment of Special Tiger Protection Force in Corbett Tiger Reserve is given, we may be constrained to request the Ministry of Defence to deploy the Eco-Task Force to protect tigers".
The court had said, "It is unfortunate that though the Special Tiger Protection Force has been constituted in the state on May 13, 2014, but till date, it has not been made functional."
This year alone, more than nine tigers died in the state and a number of elephants also died due to railway accidents and electrocution, it said.?
"The state cannot be a spectator. It is an alarming situation. Remedial measures are required to be taken at the earliest to save the wildlife from poachers and also to relocate/shift van gujjars from the forest areas.
"It is also the need of the hour that criminal tribes are kept at bay from the vicinity of national parks to protect wildlife," the court said. ?
The court had also directed the chief secretary to submit an affidavit on various queries regarding the matter by today which could not be filed due to paucity of time.
The affidavit would now be filed by August 6.