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Daily News Analysis


2nd April, 2024 Environment


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Picture Courtesy: https://www.thehindu.com/sci-tech/energy-and-environment/what-are-the-new-rules-for-elephant-transfers-explained/article67988618.ece

Context: The recent notification of the Captive Elephant (Transfer or Transport) Rules, 2024 by the Indian government has sparked discussion due to its implications for the transfer and ownership of elephants, which are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act.

Earlier Provisions for Ownership and Transfer of Elephants

  • Wildlife Protection Act, 1972: According to the Act, elephants are listed as Schedule I species, offering them the highest level of protection. This implies that capturing or trading them, irrespective of whether they are wild or captive, is strictly prohibited under any circumstances.
  • Special Circumstances for Translocation: Section 12 of the Wildlife Protection Act allows translocation of Schedule I animals for specific purposes like education, scientific research, or population management of wildlife, ensuring no harm is caused to wild animals. Additionally, translocation is permitted for collecting specimens from recognized zoos or museums.
  • Captive Elephant Ownership: Captive elephants hold a special category due to their historical roles in forestry, timber transportation, religious purposes in temples, and presence in estates of erstwhile royal families. Consequently, ownership of captive elephants is permitted.
  • Strict Rules for Transferring Captive Elephants: Section 40 (2) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, prohibits acquiring, possessing, or transferring captive elephants without written permission from the Chief Wildlife Warden of the State.

Loopholes in the Previous Laws and Activists' Concerns

  • Amendment in 2021: In 2021, the Environment Ministry amended the Wildlife Protection Act, allowing the transfer of elephants for "religious or any other purposes." This broad interpretation, according to activists and researchers, could potentially accelerate elephant trafficking and illegal commercial transactions.
  • Standing Committee's Opposition: A committee led by the former Environment Minister, Jairam Ramesh, opposed this amendment but it was passed into law.

New Rules for Captive Elephant Transfers (Captive Elephant (Transfer or Transport) Rules, 2024)

The new regulations introduce relaxations under which captive elephants can be transferred between owners or locations. These include:

  • Owner's Inability to Maintain the Elephant: If the current owner is no longer in a position to properly care for the elephant.
  • Chief Wildlife Warden's Discretion: When the Chief Wildlife Warden of a state deems it essential for the elephant's well-being to be transferred to a new location that can provide better upkeep.

Approval Process for Intra-State Transfers

  • Veterinarian's Health Certificate: Before an elephant can be transferred within the same state, a veterinarian must certify its health.
  • Habitat Suitability Assessment: The Deputy Conservator of Forests needs to confirm that both the current and prospective habitats are suitable for the elephant's well-being.
  • Chief Wildlife Warden's Approval: The Chief Wildlife Warden has the authority to approve or reject the transfer application after reviewing the documents.

Approval Process for Inter-State Transfers

  • Similar Conditions Apply: Similar conditions apply to transfers involving the movement of elephants between states.
  • Registration of Genetic Profile: The elephant's genetic profile must be registered with the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change before the transfer is carried out.
  • Permissions from Originating and Receiving States: Unlike the previous rules that mandated permissions from every state the elephant would pass through during transport, now only the originating and recipient states' permissions are required.


  • Elephants, the largest land mammals on Earth, play a vital role in the ecosystem and boast unique characteristics.
  • Elephants are adaptable and can be found in various habitats across Africa and Asia, including:
    • Savannas: These open grasslands with scattered trees provide ample food and space for elephants to roam.
    • Forests: Tropical and subtropical forests offer elephants shade, shelter, and a diverse diet of leaves, fruits, and bark.
    • Grasslands and Wetlands: These areas provide essential grazing grounds and water sources, especially during dry seasons.
  • Elephants are highly social animals and live in herds led by experienced matriarchs. These herds exhibit strong social bonds and cooperative behaviour, working together to find food, raise young, and defend themselves against threats.

Unique Traits

  • Size and Strength: Elephants are the largest land animals, with impressive strength and powerful trunks. Their trunks are prehensile extensions of their upper lip and nose, used for breathing, smelling, grabbing objects, and even communication.
  • Tusks: Tusks are elongated incisor teeth, more prominent in males, and used for digging, fighting, and stripping bark from trees. In some cases, females also have tusks, although they are generally smaller.
  • Communication: Elephants communicate through a complex system of vocalisations, including trumpets, rumbles, and infrasonic sounds that travel long distances. They also use body language and touch to interact with each other.
  • Long Lifespan: Elephants can live for up to 70 years in the wild, with strong memories and complex social lives.

Role in the Ecosystem

Elephants are keystone species, meaning their presence significantly impacts the health and balance of their environment. They play a vital role in several ways:

  • Seed Dispersal: Elephants consume large quantities of fruits and seeds, which are then distributed through their dung over vast distances. This helps to regenerate forests and maintain plant diversity.
  • Habitat Creation: By foraging for food and creating watering holes, elephants create pathways and clearings that benefit other animals.
  • Ecosystem Engineers: Their grazing and browsing habits influence vegetation patterns and maintain the health of grasslands and savannas.


  • Habitat Loss: Habitat destruction due to deforestation, agriculture, and human settlements is a major threat. As their habitat shrinks, elephants face competition for food and water and increased conflict with humans.
  • Poaching: The illegal ivory trade continues to drive elephant poaching, fueled by the demand for ivory products in some parts of the world.
  • Human-Elephant Conflict: As human settlements expand into elephant territory, conflicts arise over resources. This can lead to the deaths of both elephants and humans.

IUCN Red List of Threatened Species:

  • African Forest Elephant: Listed as Critically Endangered
  • Asian Elephant: Listed as Endangered
  • Wildlife Protection Act of 1972: In India, elephants are listed under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, offering them the highest level of protection. This act prohibits hunting, trade, and possession of elephants without permission.


Q. Consider the following Statements in the context of Elephants:

1. Elephants are the largest land mammals on Earth.

2. Elephants are highly social animals and live in herds led by experienced matriarchs.

3. Elephants communicate through a complex system of vocalisations, including trumpets, rumbles, and infrasonic sounds that travel long distances.

4. Their grazing and browsing habits influence vegetation patterns and maintain the health of grasslands and savannas.

How many of the above statements are correct?

A) Only one

B) Only two

C) Only three

D) All four

Answer: D