Jai Wins Long Legal Fight For Freedom!

November 20, 2023 | By dw
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Wildlife SOS is thrilled to announce that after a nearly three-year legal battle, Jai is truly free! The images of Jai before his December 2020 rescue will haunt us forever. His condition was heart-wrenching, with severe untreated wounds on his legs inflicted by cruel spiked chains. Almost as shocking, after Jai’s rescue a flurry of legal challenges threatened his new life of kindness at the Elephant Hospital Campus. Thankfully compassionate Wildlife SOS supporters rushed to Jai’s aid!

Jai’s first steps without chains at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital Campus were just the beginning of his long ordeal, triggering repeated legal challenges by his “owner” at the time. Challenges under India’s strong wildlife protection laws can take years because of the complexities, the many states and jurisdictions involved, and the permits required for legal elephant ownership and transportation.

Jai on a misty morning walk. He now lives a peaceful life at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital Campus.

In this elephant’s case, the people wanting to retain custody of Jai repeatedly presented multiple forged documents before the court involving multiple jurisdictions and states. The frivolous cases were meant to confuse the courts, and required intensive investigation by Wildlife SOS. The long process also shows the numerous times an elephant can traded and trafficked. In the case of Raju for example, the poor elephant was sold more than 27 times, and each time his new owner used brutal methods to “train” and dominate Raju.

When Wildlife SOS rescues an elephant like Jai who has already suffered so much in his life, it is critical to ensure the elephant does not fall back into the hands of their abusers. Our experts pay careful attention to legal permissions from authorities, and courts are needed to shift the elephant to the safety of our Elephant Hospital Campus. This is why a robust legal team is critical to rescue, and continue to care for, captive elephants in India.

Details On Jai’s Long Ordeal

Learning of an elephant in distress is just the beginning of a long and often frustrating process. Jai is a large bull elephant, and his situation show us why we work hard to help captive elephants in India. Jai’s battle for freedom began in the state of Rajasthan when a concerned citizen called the local police to report the elephant’s agitated behaviour.

When he was first found, Jai’s condition was shocking and the world cried out to help him.

Jai was being used for a procession when he suddenly collapsed from exhaustion and his health became critical. The Rajasthan Forest Department informed Wildlife SOS about the elephant and requested a veterinary team from our Elephant Hospital be sent to provide emergency treatment for the elephant.
Thankfully, Shri Hemant Singh, Deputy Conservator of Forests, Jhalawar Division, Rajasthan Forest Dept was the officer who took immediate action against the culprits who were exploiting the elephant for commercial use without any valid documentation.

The team made the long drive to reach Jai’s location. Upon arrival, our team of doctors started administering emergency medical treatment, fluids and critical treatment to help stabilize elephant Jai’s rapidly deteriorating condition. In the meantime, determined forest officials were initiating legal action against the custodians of the elephant who were responsible for his poor medical condition.

The matter was taken to court where the Forest Department secured court orders to immediately shift Jai to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital for providing continued treatment and medical care.

Jai’s wounds have required constant care, but he looks so much better now! (photo immediately after his rescue)

Armed with Court orders and Forest Department permission letters to move Jai elephant to safety, the Wildlife SOS Elephant Ambulance and a security convoy started their long journey from Rajasthan to our Elephant Hospital in Mathura. The convoy moved slowly to ensure Jai’s safety and comfort.
Upon arrival, Jai got his first taste of freedom at the Wildlife SOS Elephant Hospital Campus as he slowly settled into a daily routine of medical treatment and a nutritious diet to help him improve his condition. However, the struggle for ensuring Jai’s freedom was far from over and a long battle loomed ahead.

In Jai’s case, the Rajasthan Forest Department seized Jai from the offenders as he was very distressed and his agitated behaviour was placing the public at risk. The offenders could not provide legal documentation like the Transit Permit and Ownership Certificate, authorising the custodian as the rightful owner with the authorization to relocate Jai in the state of Rajathan.

Subsequently, further investigations by the forest officers revealed that Jai was sold in clear violation of the law (WPA 1972). The person who purchased Jai had not obtained the mandatory permissions and Ownership Certificate from the Forest Department which in itself raised suspicion on the legitimacy of the ownership of the Elephant and the authenticity of the documents.

Jai’s feet and legs November, 2023. His healing has been extraordinary, but his toes and footpads still require constant care after decades of neglect.

According to the documents initially presented by the offender claiming to be the rightful owner, he claimed the original owner of Jai had relinquished rights and handed over the Ownership Certificate to him. However, during legal proceedings, he presented different documents issued by a different State which reflected the ownership of Jai inaccurately. Upon thorough enquiry and further investigations, it became evident that documentation had been obtained by the person through intentional misrepresentation and forgery.

In response to these findings, Wildlife SOS immediately alerted the Chief Wildlife Warden with the details, inconsistencies and documentation that was suspect along with the true facts that were concealed by the person claiming to be Jai’s owner. The Chief Wildlife Warden conducted a thorough investigation and initiated cancellation of the disputed and fraudulent ownership certificate. Wildlife SOS extends heartfelt appreciation to the Chief Wildlife Warden who took necessary legal action to initiate enquiry in the matter and took steps to rectify the same.

Jai’s saga required a strong and well organized legal team with a sharp strategy combined with field investigators to dig deep and assist the state in extricating true facts and presenting the truth. Without this, it was likely that Jai could have gone back to the hands of the wrong people, rather than in the care of Wildlife SOS.

Legal battles over rescued elephants can drag on for several years and sometimes even decades, especially when illegal trafficking gangs, cartels and mafia with deep pockets will go to any extent to retain wrongful custody. Currently, Wildlife SOS is handling several legal battles like this for protection of other elephants in our care.

Each time we rescue an Elephant, we brace ourselves for the inevitable legal challenges that lie ahead to ensure the ongoing protection of the elephant. Our team of investigators diligently gather facts and valuable intelligence to build a strong case before the courts. Our veterinarians conduct well-documented clinical health examinations of the elephant, providing a clear and compelling testimony in the court of law. The documentation also includes images and videos which confirm the visual appearance of the elephant including wounds, scars, debility, emaciation etc. Lastly, we provide prosecution assistance and expert testimony to the Forest Department to help implement the law and bring justice to suffering elephants and bring them protection.

Last December when it seemed like Jai might lose in court, we reached out to seek help from our supporters, appealing for donations to fund our urgent legal efforts. The support that poured in to help us fight the battle for Jai was a heart-warming display of generosity, and many kind people donated to support Jai’s cause. Thanks to this support, we were able to succeed in keeping Jai safe. He will now stay protected, free and under the loving care of Wildlife SOS.

Read about the timeline of Jai’s Rescue

Our risk analysis indicates there could be a slight possibility of additional attempts to file frivolous cases to regain custody of Jai. However, our strong legal efforts with irrefutable evidence before the court will stand strong and help Jai retain his freedom. Our team must aggressively refute and respond to even the most frivolous of claims, because if left unchallenged, a deceived court in a new jurisdiction could side with Jai’s abusers. Jai is 53 years old now, and finally truly free! We are most grateful to our supporters for helping us keep a strong legal team who ensures the safety of the many elephants in our care.

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