Captive Indian Elephants to Get Aadhar Numbers. But Will It Really Prevent Animal Cruelty?


Captive Indian Elephants to Get Aadhar Numbers. But Will It Really Prevent Animal Cruelty?

Illustration: Mitesh Parmar

India’s Aadhar database is one of the largest biometric repositories of information in the world. For years now, we’ve been hearing about the implementation of a similar system of unique identification for cattle, covering the cows and buffaloes of India. And most recently, there has been a proposal to set up a unique identification database for domesticated elephants used in human activities. With approximately 2,700 elephants living in captivity across the country, the Project Elephant initiative aims to carry out genetic mapping and assign each animal a unique identity number based on its DNA.

The idea behind the creation of such a database is to reduce atrocities against elephants and their illegal poaching. “Genetic mapping will ensure that captive elephants are only kept by authorised persons after getting a nod from the state chief wildlife warden. Thus, it will ensure that all the captive elephants are under the scanner of the state forest department and that incidents of poaching do not take place,” said Noyal Thomas, the director of Project Elephant, in a quote to Times of India.

There were two high-profile cases of elephant deaths reported in the media this year, both from Kerala, were elephants fell victim to traps rigged with explosive bait that were intended for other animals. The move to undertake genetic mapping of all captive elephants in the country will help monitor the animals and make such incidents less likely to occur. Project Elephant is carrying out this exercise in coordination with the Wildlife Institute of India (WII), which is based in Dehradun. Blood and faecal samples of the captive elephants will be taken in order to set up the database.

Despite the veneration of many animals in Indian religious mythology, cruelty against animals remains an unfortunate reality. Any move to reduce it, like Project Elephant’s genetic mapping project, is a welcome one.