Prior to enactment of the WPA-1972, there was no legal
provision for registration of domesticated elephants. Some
timber companies used to brand their elephants for
identification, but it was their internal affair. In northeastern
India, the British started a system (still in practice) of
registration of khoonkies (trained elephants) engaged by
the contractors for elephant capturing operations. This
was meant to check the entry of unscrupulous elephant
catchers inside the operational area. The registration
comprises a certificate issued by the local Divisional Forest
Officer containing details of height and other identifying
marks of the elephant. In recent years, photographs of the
mahout and phandi (nooser) have also been affixed on the
registration papers. The registration remains valid for the
period of validity of the contract and is enforceable
through the clauses of the contract. In northeastern India
annual grazing permits for elephants issued by the Forest
Department to the owners are also sometimes regarded as
an ‘identity card' for the elephant.

The WPA-1972 envisages the registration of domesticated
elephants by way of ownership certificates. These
certificates are issued by the CWLW or the AO to the
legitimate owner of the elephant after due verification. The
forms for ownership certificates have been prescribed by
various state governments under the Wildlife (Protection)
Rules framed under Section 64 (A sample is given in
Annex 3). The Act provides for the issuance of ownership
certificates in the following cases (Anon, 1994):

Case A: The Act stipulates that the owners of all captive
animals covered under Schedules I and II (Part II) should
declare the same to the CWLW or AO within 30 days from
the commencement of the Act [Section 40(1)]. The Act
expected the CWLW or the AO to conduct an inquiry on
receipt of such declaration and affix identification marks to
the animals in question (Section 41). Section 42 enabled
the CWLW to issue ownership certificates for the purpose
of Section 40. Most of the applications for ownership
certificates for elephants are rejected on the ground that
no declaration was made within the stipulated period. But
the fact remains that elephants were not in Schedule I or in
Schedule II (Part II) at the time of the commencement of
the WPA-1972. It was included in Schedule I on 5 October
1977 and the Act contains no clear instructions as to how
to deal with such late entrants. Section 40 (4) empowers
the state government to require any person to declare
certain items within a stipulated period. But this section
does not cover captive animals. Despite this legal lacuna,
some state governments have issued notifications asking
owners to declare their elephants within a specified period.
But not much can be achieved because of the following


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