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Union Minister Maneka Gandhi has written to Environment Minister Anil Madhav Dave seeking strict action against temple processions and tourists spots which put animals on display illegally. She has also hit out at the Central Zoo Authority for “turning a blind eye to these illegal facilities”. “Hundreds of elephants in temples and in tourists spots such as Amer fort are exhibited to the public, without having been recognised by the Central Zoo Authority,” Maneka said in the letter.
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“Strict action must be initiated against those found in violation of the above provisions of law,” she said.
The Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 defines a zoo as an establishment where animals can be kept captive for exhibition. This definition of zoos also includes circus and rescue centres.
Further, as per Recognition of Zoo Rules (2009), a person/company/state government needs to seek a formal recognition from the Central Zoo Authority in order to maintain a zoo.
The report of the Elephant Task Force, Ministry of Environment and Forests, titled “Gajah”, released in August 2010 too has recommended a prohibition on the use of elephants in “exhibitions, circuses, weddings, unregulated tourism, public functions, begging or for other entertainment”.
It has also emphasised on the need to improve the upkeep, maintenance and housing of captive elephant.
As per rules, for 10 animals in a zoo atleast 1 hectare of land (nearly the size of a football field) must be set aside.
For example, if a zoo has 350 animals it should be atleast 35 hectares in area.
Also, every zoo is required to provide a “naturalistic environment through proper landscaping and planting of appropriate species.”
A zoo must also have a veterinary unit, along with a curator, an education officer and a biologist who will “support the officer-in-charge of the zoo in carrying out the responsibilities of housing, upkeep and healthcare of zoo animals, research and visitor education”.