Madras HC junks plea to bring back ‘Rivaldo’ to camp

"There is no doubt that Rivaldo would face difficulties in the wild. But one cannot be sure that Rivaldo prefers captivity than being left open in the wild and he may yet make attempts to make forays into human settlements; but he should always be encouraged to go back to the wild unless it is a question of his survival," the bench said.

The Madras High Court on Thursday rejected a plea from an animal activist to bring ‘Rivaldo’, the elephant with serious injuries in its trunk, which was left in the wild two months ago, back to captivity.

The first bench of Chief Justice Sanjib Banerjee and Justice P D Audikesavalu expressed its declination, when the PIL from S Muralidharan, founder-trustee of Indian Centre for Animal Rights and Education (INCARE), came up for further hearing, Wednesday.

The bench said the laws of nature may be cruel, but it may still be beyond human intelligence. There is a rule of the survival of the fittest and though endangered animals are sometimes taken into captivity to protect or feed them, animals are best left in the wild.

“For all we know, Rivaldo may be the first case in the country of an elephant kept in captivity for a long period of time for its treatment and released back into the wild. There is no doubt that Rivaldo would face difficulties in the wild. But one cannot be sure that Rivaldo prefers captivity than being left open in the wild and he may yet make attempts to make forays into human settlements; but he should always be encouraged to go back to the wild unless it is a question of his survival,” the bench said.

In this case, there is no doubt that the petitioner has the best interest of the pachyderm in mind. There is also little doubt that the petitioner has feelings for animals and urges the court to take the elephant back into captivity so that he may survive longer than he may otherwise in the wild.

At the same time, the forest officials’ expertise has also to be taken into account as they say that it is better for Rivaldo to acclimatise himself and ultimately learn to live with his deficiencies in the wild. The court has to yield to the greater expertise of the forest officials in such regard. At any rate, it does not appear that the authorities have no concern for the animal, or are attempting to shirk responsibility, or the view taken is arbitrary, the bench added.

The matter will appear eight weeks hence, the bench said and hoped that Rivaldo gets used to the life in the wild, though there is no doubt that the forest officials will keep a watch over him, as may the petitioner herein, in accordance with law. A further video on how Rivaldo is doing in the wild and managing his affairs should be presented when the matter appears next, focusing on his ability to graze, forage and drink. It would be best if the date or dates of the footage are apparent from the video itself, the judges added and posted the matter to December 7.

Meanwhile, the petitioner has also expressed apprehension that while the attention remains focused on Rivaldo, elephant corridors that had been restored pursuant to orders of this court are being permitted to be encroached once again.

“The forest officials should ensure that the elephant corridors are left free from human interference,” the bench reiterated.

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