Different sets of legal provisions exist in India to regulate
the import and export of elephants and products derived
from them. The Government of India announces its
import/export policy from time to time and with regard to a
particular species of wildlife and this is usually influenced
by its status under the WPA-1972 and the CITES.
According to the existing policy (1 April, 1997 to 31 March,
2002), zoological parks, recognized scientific institutions,
circus companies and private individuals can import
elephants on the recommendation of the CWLW subject to
the provisions of the CITES. Zoological parks, in particular,
are exempted from import duty under the provisions of the
Customs Tariff Act, 1975. The export of elephants,
including their parts and products, is prohibited. However,
in exceptional circumstances, the non-commercial export of
elephants is permissible for specific scientific, zoological or
educational purposes on the recommendations of the
Ministry of Environment & Forests, Government of India. All
exports and imports of elephants are permissible only
through the custom points at Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai and
Chennai and are subject to provisions of the CITES and
inspection by the wildlife authorities of the central
government. Any violation of the import/export policy is
deemed to be an offence punishable under the Customs
Act, 1962.

The Indian elephant now enjoys much more legal
protection than ever before. But the enforcement of the
laws leaves much to be desired. Even after 22 years of
inclusion of the Indian elephant in Schedule-I of the WPA-
1972, a large number of captive elephants is still not
covered by ownership certificates. The sale and purchase
of elephants at the Sonepur fair (Bihar) takes place every
year without much regard to the provisions of the Act.
Reports regarding the illegal capture of wild elephants are
frequently received from the northeastern states. The
poaching of elephants for ivory has been going on
unabated in different parts of the country and notorious
poachers are still at large. Grazing continues to be a
serious problem in the Protected Areas and reports of
elephants dying of anthrax and other cattle-borne
diseases are not uncommon. Therefore, steps to improve
the efficiency of the enforcement agencies (Bist & Barua,
2000) must urgently be implemented. Major flaws in the
existing laws are as follows:

1. Some of the safeguards for the Schedule-I animals as
envisaged in the WPA-1972 do not suit the nature of
elephants and the management practices relevant to them.
For example, of all the wild animals, elephants cause the
greatest damage to crops and houses. Yet, even the
known crop-raiders and house-breakers among the
elephants cannot be captured unless they turn into human
killers (Section 11). This causes resentment among the
public and they, sometimes, take the law into their own
hands by injuring or killing the elephants in question. Such
a situation hardly helps the cause of elephant
conservation. Similarly, although a large number of
abandoned elephant calves are routinely rescued by the
forest staff and made captive, this operation does not have
the backing of the Act.

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