New Delhi: The Union environment ministry is creating a central genetic database of captive elephants in the country to help curb illegal trade of the animal, officials have said. It is also likely to issue directions to states to not bury a dead elephant, if it has not died due to poisoning, as it could be fodder for other animals, they said. The use of elephants and managing them in a humane manner has been a contentious issue in India which has a long history of keeping the animal in captivity. Despite several efforts, illegal trade in captive elephants continues in the country.
The ministry has now embarked on creating a genetic database of captive elephants. It is expected to have individual-level genetic data along with pictures of the animals and curb their illegal trade, an official said. "A record of each elephant and its owner will help ascertain if any elephant has been sold or traded illegally," he said.
The ministry is already conducting DNA profiling of wild elephants for scientific estimation of the elephant population. The census data is likely to be released in March next year.
The two databases will ensure no illegal captures are done from the wild, the official said.
According to the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972, amended in 2002, the sale of captive elephants not registered with state forest departments is banned. There are a total of 2,675 captive elephants in 26 states and Union territories, including the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, in India. The majority of them are found in the north-eastern (41 per cent) and southern (26 per cent) states.
A large number of captive elephants in India are privately owned and a majority of them are used for commercial or ceremonial purposes and rituals. The Wildlife (Protection) Act mandates suitable upkeep and maintenance as prerequisite for issuing ownership certificates. Till date, a total of 1,251 ownership certificates have been issued by the states.