Bangladesh court halts wild elephant adoption in big win for animal rights

Dhaka, Bangladesh - A Bangladeshi court on Sunday barred the adoption of elephants from the wild, a move hailed by animal rights activists as a "landmark" order to help stop cruelty.

An elephant named Shundori stands in front of a circus in Dinajpur, Bangladesh.
An elephant named Shundori stands in front of a circus in Dinajpur, Bangladesh.  © IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

Rights groups said the high court order suspending licenses will stop the torture of captive Asian elephants in the name of training.

"The high court today suspended all licenses for the captive rearing of elephants," Amit Das Gupta, deputy attorney general of the country, told AFP.

Bangladesh was once one of the major homes for Asian elephants.

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But poaching and habitat loss saw their number dwindle so much that they are now declared critically endangered in the South Asian country.

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) says there are nearly 100 captive Asian elephants in Bangladesh, nearly half the amount of elephants left in the wild in the country.

As logging and farming encroach on elephant territory, young animals are captured in the country's northern and southeastern hills.

The forestry department has previously issued licenses to logging groups who use the elephants to drag tree trunks, or to circus groups – to adopt the animals.

But Gupta said the elephants were being exploited and used for begging and "street extortion," breaking the license terms.

Animal rights activists said the suspension would end often brutal training, known as "hadani."

Animal rights advocates hail Bangladesh's "landmark order"

The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) is a large, endangered mammal native to Asia.
The Asian elephant (Elephas maximus indicus) is a large, endangered mammal native to Asia.  © IMAGO / Pond5 Images

"This is a landmark order," said Rakibul Haque Emil, head of the animal rights group People for Animal Welfare (PAW) Foundation in Bangladesh.

PAW and actor Jaya Ahsan launched a public interest litigation against captive elephant licensing.

"In this name of training elephants, private licensees including circus parties brutally separate elephant calves from their mother, shackle them for months and then torture them to teach tricks," Emil said.

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"We hope it is the end of hadani in Bangladesh," he added.

The plight of the captive elephants was highlighted May last year when a young elephant, used for begging on the streets, was killed by a train.

Some daub the elephants in colorful paint and force them to do tricks on the streets, asking for cash for their performance.

In May 2019, police also rescued two emaciated elephants from their owners after the animals were used for roadside begging. The elephants were later handed over to Dhaka Zoo.

Emil said they would mobilize support for the rehabilitation of captive elephants.

"Several countries in Asia such as Thailand and Nepal have found some success in rehabilitating captive elephants," he said. "We shall do it here."

Cover photo: IMAGO / ZUMA Wire

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