Four rescued elephants back in circus because of clerical error

Court orders the animals to be returned to Rambo Circus as petitioners sent notice to wrong postal address

A clerical error on the part of petitioners made the Sessions Court in Pimpri to direct the rescuers — Animal Welfare Board of India and other private animal welfare organisations — to return the four elephants to Rambo Circus on June 23. While the court has given permission to the circus to use the animals, it has warned the owners of punished if any case of animal cruelty is reported to them.

Almost a month ago, 22 animals were ‘rescued’ from the circus. However, a Pimpri court ordered the four elephants out of the 22 others to be returned due to a clerical flaw brought forth by the lawyer representing the Circus owners.

According to the statement released by Wildlife SOS, one of the organisations helping with the upkeep of animals at the ResQ Centre near Bavdhan, “The court noted that the notice to the circus was sent on a wrong postal address. There was no substantial documentation to refute the circus’s claim during the argument. In the shocking ruling that followed, the court ordered that the four elephants be returned to the circus immediately.”

On Thursday (June 23) morning, all members of Rambo Circus came up to the rescue centre to take their animals back. However, they were denied entry in a tense situation without the official letter of the investigating officer. After many hours and documentation, the elephants were finally allowed to go with the circus folks, much to their joy and animal welfare organisations’ woe.

While the circus managers and sympathisers have denied the claims made by rescuers of animal cruelty, the animal welfare organisations have started a crusade on social media. The Wildlife SOS has launched a petition to request the government and courts to reconsider their decision to send the elephants back to the circus. “The rescued blind and sick elephants being returned to the circus which abused them came as a shock to everyone,” said Wildlife SOS co-founder Kartick Satyanarayan, adding, “This is a sad day for elephant protection in India. The system has failed to protect the animals that deserve protection by law. We will not give up the fight and our struggle will go on.”

The animal welfare organisations have said that the circus is functioning illegally. According to the petitioners, “The Central Zoo Authority (CZA) had already cancelled recognition of Rambo Circus based on a number of violations. The authority later issued a directive for the elephants to be confiscated and sent for medical treatment and rehabilitation under their order dated 29 April 2016 which has not been considered.” Dr Yaduraj Khadpekar, who had been treating the ailing elephants at ResQ said, “The blind and injured elephants have had a small taste of freedom. All the efforts in providing them medical care will be lost if they are returned to the circus. It is painful to see these animals needing medical care going back to being forced to perform.”

The Circus team has maintained that the animals had been taken away forcibly and wrongfully. According to one of the circus members who requested anonymity, “The circus has always treated its animals like family. We raise them, nurture and care for them. Cruelty is an alien concept for us.” Sources said that the circus is planning a feast for its returned animals, a treat where they will be given their favourite food.

The elephants were given to the circus owner on certain conditions and a bond of Rs 20 lakh for production of the animals. The conditions included the circus owner shall keep the animals in a suitable place and good conditions; shall cause medical examination of the animal by the veterinary doctor as per rules; shall produce the animals before the court or any authority as and when directed by the court; shall follow/comply the Performing Animals Registration Rules, 2001, and the provisions of the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals (PCA) Act.

On May 26 evening, 22 animals of Rambo Circus, which included four elephants, three horses, one pony and 14 dogs, were confiscated by the AWBI after it received complaints from a few NGOs about Rambo Circus violating the PCA Act.

gargi.verma@goldensparrow.com

Originally published on The Golden Sparrow

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