By Joymala Bagchi And Amiya Kumar Kushwaha
New Delhi [India], December 22 (ANI): The Central Zoo Authority (CZA), a statutory body operating under the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change, has cancelled the recognition of the Great Golden Circus in Gujarat, the only circus in the entire country which was recognised under the Wildlife Protection Act, for using elephants as performers.
CZA's decision comes in the backdrop of the Delhi High Court's intervention while hearing two petitions, one filed by PETA and other by Federation for Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO), seeking rescue of animals in circuses due to COVID-19 pandemic.
After conducting a survey, the CZA had filed an affidavit in the Delhi High Court where it apprised that the Great Golden Circus reported possession of two female elephants as captive animals and the office has received communication by the Chief Wildlife Warden, Gujarat stating that the two female elephants were transferred to the Gombahadur Chhetri Radha Krishna Temple in Jamnagar district in Gujarat for religious activities.
CZA said that the proprietor of Great Golden Circus was directed to show cause why recognition of the circus under 38-H of the Wildlife (Protection) Act 1972 should not be cancelled.
As per Section 38-l(l) of the Act, subject to the other provisions of this Act, no zoo (which also includes a circus which is recognised as a zoo) shall transfer any wild animal or captive animal specified in Schedules I and II except with the previous permission of the CZA.
As per Section 38-I(2) a zoo (which also includes a circus recognised as a zoo) shall transfer any wild animal or captive animal to only a recognised zoo, the CZA had told the court.
The proprietor, Great Golden Circus, did not file a reply to the specific violation cited by the CZA in the notice dated September 1, 2020, the Environment Ministry had said in an office order.
The 98th meeting of the technical committee of the CZA held on 19 November 2020 recommended cancelling the Great Golden Circus' recognition for violating the WPA. Consequently, CZA during a meeting held on December 7, 2020, cancelled the recognition and issued an order for the same on December 17, 2020.
"And whereas, on perusal of the reply filed by the proprietor, Great Golden Circus and after due deliberation, the technical committee of the CZA, in its 98th meeting held on November 19, 2020, recommended to the CZA, to cancel recognition of the Great Golden Circus," the ministry stated in the official order.
"Now, therefore, the Central Zoo Authority in its 37th meeting held on December 7, 2020, in view of grounds cited above sufficient opportunity given to the applicant and in exercise of powers conferred under sub-section (6) of Section 38-H under the Wild Life (Protection) Act, 1972, cancelled recognition of the Great Golden Circus," it said.
The recognition as a "captive animal facility" by the CZA is mandatory for any circus in India that wants to keep and use wild animals, including elephants - which are protected under the Wildlife Protection Act (WPA), 1972 - for performances.
The CZA has also updated the Delhi High Court about the status of recognition of circuses in India in a petition filed by PETA India asking for directions to the central government to ban the use of animals in circuses.
PETA India CEO Dr Manilal Valliyate welcomed the decision not to allow the use of elephants in circuses and asserted that it honours these intelligent, sensitive beings in the best way possible.
"We now request that the government completely ban the use of all animals in circuses, to show the world that this is a progressive, compassionate nation that won't tolerate animal abuse," Dr Valliyate said.
Numerous inspections of circuses by the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) and its 2016 study report, which recommended a ban on using captive elephants for performances, have pointed out that there is substantial evidence that cruelty is inherent when elephants are violently trained.
Notably, the government had in 1998 banned the use of bears, monkeys, tigers, panthers, and lions as performing animals. However, elephants, although protected under Schedule I of the WPA, were excluded from this list and were being forced to perform unnatural, painful tricks along with other animals, like horses, camels, dogs, and birds.
In 2008, the Ministry of Defence decided to prohibit the use of elephants during Republic Day parades, concluding that there were serious safety concerns, since frustrated elephants may become violent - and that uncertainties existed regarding the legality of their ownership.
Earlier, the CZA had told the Delhi High Court that the Great Golden Circus in Gujarat is the only circus in the entire country which is recognised under the Wildlife Protection Act and it sent a show-cause notice to circus why its recognition should not be cancelled for alleged violation of the provisions of the Act for maintenance and display of captive elephants.
Delhi High Court had asked the concerned authorities to conduct surveys on the conditions of animals in circuses while hearing two petitions related to seeking directions to impose an immediate ban on the use of animals in circuses across the country. (ANI)