The Sonepur Mela is Asia’s largest Cattle Fair starting from November 10 to December 12 that witnesses trade of cows, buffaloes, horses, camels etc. every year. It has come to the notice that several animals, specifically around 50 wild elephants are being sent to the Mela from States like Assam, Gujarat & Karnatakaare for the purpose of exhibition and sale. Elephants are the schedule 1 species under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 by virtue of which elephant has highest degree of protection and therefore cannot be exhibited or sold.
The Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), India’s apex animal rights agency is the catalyst that protects the interests of animals on local and national levels – through education, research, lobbying, mobilization, training and direct action. We have received several complaints regarding the sale of prohibited animals in the Sonepur Mela again this year. That capture and transportation of Asian Elephants (Elephas maximus) from Assam to Sonepur appears to be a regular occurrence despite legal provisions that clearly state that a captive elephant (Schedule I animal) cannot be possessed, acquired, disposed of or transported without written permission of the Chief Wildlife Warden or the Authorized officer under Section 40 (2) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Furthermore Section 43 of the same Act restricts the sale, purchase or transfers of captive elephants from one person to another for monetary consideration or any other profitable gain.
However, it is pertinent to mention that even after the order of the High Court of Patna in Civil Writ Jurisdiction Case No.21952 of 2014 wherein the Court had put ban on sale and projection of those animals which are not permitted under the law i.e., Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 are being projected and sold in direct contempt of the Hon’ble High Court order.
FIAPO believes that the time has come where conserving wildlife should also include welfare of wildlife, and a consideration of their interests. It is a matter of concern as not only the provisions of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972 are being violated but also during the transportation of the elephants from one state to another, that huge animal faces a lot of cruelty. Based on the above, we have written to the concerned Departments and Senior Officials urging to investigate the issue and take action on urgent basis before the start of Sonepur Mela in November.