We’ve been taking note of the questions you are asking about Mohan, and have drafted the answers below to help bring more clarity to his current situation. Thank you for having an interest in Mohan, and for supporting our efforts to rescue him.
What is Mohan’s history? Mohan has been chained up and used as a working elephant since he was a calf. He is now more than 55 years old. You can read about his story here: http://wildlifesos.org/blog/the-untold-part-of-the-raju-story/ You can also catch up on our efforts to rescue him over the last few months here: http://wildlifesos.org/blog/mohans-current-rescue-situation/
Why can’t you just buy Mohan? We understand that this seems like a simple solution to saving Mohan, but there are many reasons why buying him is not a viable option. 1. It would set a very bad precedent, and we fear that the owner of every elephant we rescue in the future will demand payment from us. 2. We don’t want to put money in the hands of someone who has shown a willingness and ability to exploit and abuse animals. 3. Finally, it is illegal to either buy or sell elephants in India.
Is Mohan still in his “owner’s” possession? Yes, Mohan remains with the man who has had illegal custody of him. And while we don’t want to divulge the details of our surveillance, we do have a system in place for monitoring Mohan. In addition, the Forest Department has staff present in the area and they also send someone to check on him at least once each day.
I am really concerned that this owner will take him to a place where he can’t be monitored. Is there an order in place preventing him from doing that? That is our concern as well. Although, legally Mohan cannot be moved without permission from the Forest Department. That is one reason why the Forest Department is monitoring Mohan each day.
What are the other cases pending for Mohan? There are a total of 3 cases in court related to Mohan :
A) State of Uttar Pradesh vs. BN Mishra – U.P. Forest Department prosecuting the so called owner of Mohan for illegal possession of an elephant without any valid documents to confirm the ownership.
B) BN Mishra vs State of Uttar Pradesh – Revision filed by BN Mishra challenging the order of the Pratapgarh District Court that gave directions to send Mohan Elephant for treatment and veterinary care to the Wildlife SOS Elephant Care center in Mathura based on the veterinary opinion of independent vet experts from various Government of Uttar Pradesh institutions. The accused filed a revision in the High Court and the high court unfortunately set aside the order of the Pratapgarh district court based on the opinion of the local district chief veterinary officer who primarily works on livestock!
C) BN Mishra vs State of Uttar Pradesh – Revision filed by BN Mishra challenging custody of elephant and release of custody of elephant from Forest Department – Current status is dismissed from Pratapgarh district court. However, the accused is likely to file a revision in the Allahabad High Court.
Is there any way to get custody of Mohan while he awaits the next phase? Unfortunately, no… getting custody of him requires that the pending cases above be decided in favor of Mohan’s owner getting convicted, or the court issuing directions that Mohan be handed over into the physical custody of the Uttar Pradesh Forest Department, or the Court issuing directions to send Mohan to the WSOS Elephant Care Center in Mathura for veterinary care.
How soon realistically could Mohan’s release to sanctuary be granted? While there is a chance that things could move quickly, and we could have Mohan in our custody within the next few weeks, there is also the chance that the legal process may take longer than we anticipate and it could take months. No matter how long it takes, we are committed to fighting for Mohan and will not rest until he is safely in our care.
Can the court rule that the owner is in future never allowed to have another elephant once Mohan has been taken away from him? If the legal process continues, the owner will get prosecuted and if he is found guilty during the trial and gets convicted, he will go to jail and be labeled a criminal. This will automatically prevent him from getting an elephant legally. If he gets an elephant illegally, then he will be breaking the law and legal action will be taken against him. If he does this a second time, this will make him a repeat offender and he will be tried separately for this, and if found guilty again he will receive a more severe punishment from the court.
How can the illegal owner afford to keep fighting this in court? Isn’t he just one person with a starving elephant vs. the Forest Department and Wildlife SOS? Usually the people who have ownership of elephants are wealthy people who have a lot of influence. Moreover this is also a matter of ego and false pride. Therefore, they can afford lengthy and costly court battles and believe there is a good chance their delay tactics and influence will help them retain the elephant in their custody. A significant portion our elephant rescues have resulted in a court battle brought on by the person who claims to ‘own’ them.
Are there no laws on the books to protect these creatures from so-called “owners” who refuse to give them the very basics needed for life? Yes. India has animal welfare laws that are some of the most progressive laws in the world. Unfortunately, enforcement and implementation of these laws on the ground is often an issue due to lack of manpower, ignorance of existing laws, strong cultural beliefs, etc.
I think jail time & fines would be good for the abusive owner. Is there any chance of that? That is certainly a possibility, yes. The Forest Department is prosecuting Mohan’s so called owner for illegal possession of the elephant. As explained earlier, if he is found guilty and convicted he could be fined over 100,000 Rupees and get jail time of 3 to 7 years.
What do you think we could do as a critical mass and active voice to enact change and enforcement of laws in India that, it seems, if upheld would go a long way to achieve better welfare for many of India’s captive wildlife? What can we do? This is a great question! There are many things that you can do to help. Here are just a few of them:
- Never, ever ride an elephant or pay to see an elephant perform in any capacity. These activities are directly connected to cruelty in elephant training camps and to elephants being poached from the wild.
- Let your voice be heard! Write to government officials politely expressing your concerns, and sign our petition at: https://www.change.org/p/save-sacred-elephants-from-being-tortured-and-abused-in-india
- Donate to our Elephant Legal Fund at: https://app.mobilecause.com/f/ic7/n Even better, become a monthly donor and sponsor an elephant, so we know that we and the elephants can count on your support!
- Be relentless, put a calendar reminder to take action every month so that decision makers know we are not going away.
- Become an elephant ambassador – help us spread the message and share our petition on Facebook and other social media. Get your family and friends to sign and share it and also to contribute.
- Come and volunteer with us for a week – email queries to firstname.lastname@example.org