Dehradun: The Uttarakhand High Court on Friday imposed a ban on elephant joyrides in the state and also asked the state government to restrict number of commercial vehicles plying inside the forest zones around Corbett Tiger Reserve and Rajaji Tiger Reserve.
The order was passed by a division bench comprising justices Lok Pal Singh and Rajiv Sharma. It said that commercial use of elephants, including joyrides by the owners of resorts, will be banned in the entire state till further orders.
“The chief wildlife warden directed to take over the possession of elephants from the owners by issuing them proper receipt for their treatment, medical examination and proper upkeep within 24 hours (sic),” the HC ordered while disposing of a public interest petition filed by the gram panchayat of Dhikuli.
The court underlined that elephant’s captivity is in violation of Sections 40 and 42 of Wildlife Protection Act, 1975.
Over 40 resorts situated around Corbett Tiger Reserve (CTR) receives tourists throughout the year. Many resorts keep elephants to entertain guests. Corbett which houses royal Bengal tigers attracts more than 2 lakh tourists annually.
In its petition filed before the court in 2012, the gram panchyat of Dhikuli had said that resorts keep the elephants in pathetic conditions and even blind jumbos are forced to serve clients.
The petitioner also highlighted that there was no restriction over the number of vehicles plying in different forest zones of Ramnagar forest division in the Nainital district.
The division bench ordered that only 100 commercial vehicles plying tourists shall be permitted to enter Sitabani, Bijrani and Dhela zones of Corbett besides Kalagarh zone and Rajaji National Park.
The division bench made it clear that no private vehicles will be allowed to enter the forest zones. It is learnt several visitors prefer to bring their private vehicles.
The Dehradun based Wildlife Institute of India (WII) has been asked to prepare an assessment report on the carrying capacity of different forest zones around national parks. The WII will have to submit report in three months.