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Bangladesh Court Declares Measures to Keep Elephants Safe from Exploitation

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By Brennan Forrest - - 5 Mins Read
Elephants roaming in a safari
Elephants | AJ Robbie/Unsplash

Bangladesh's High Court has delivered a monumental decision aimed at preserving the nation's critically endangered wild elephants.

In an order issued recently, the court has taken a decisive step to ban the adoption of these majestic creatures, offering them legal protection against exploitation. 

The comprehensive ruling suspends all licenses previously permitting the capture of young Asian elephants, specifically for activities such as begging, circuses, and street shows.

A Precarious Population: Only 200 Asian Elephants Remain in Bangladesh

The backdrop of this legal intervention is the alarming decline in the population of Asian elephants in Bangladesh.

Half live in captivity, with approximately 200 of these magnificent creatures left in the wild.

The perilous state of these elephants is attributed to rampant poaching and the relentless loss of their natural habitats.


A group of elephants in a safari
Photo | Sergi Ferrete


As logging and agricultural activities encroach upon the northern and southeastern hills, where elephants traditionally roam, the animals find themselves at the mercy of capture.


  • Exploitation Under the Guise of Licenses

Previously, the forestry department had issued licenses that inadvertently facilitated the exploitation of these vulnerable creatures.

Logging groups were granted licenses enabling them to capture and use young elephants for hauling logs, a practice that not only jeopardized the well-being of the elephants but also violated the terms of the licenses. 

In a parallel scenario, circus groups secured licenses to adopt elephants captured from the wild, perpetuating the cycle of exploitation under the guise of entertainment.

A Turning Point: Court Order Challenges Unethical Practices

Rakibul Haque Emil, the head of Bangladesh's People for Animal Welfare (PAW) Foundation, hailed the court's decision as a "landmark" moment.

He shed light on the brutal practices employed in the name of training elephants, where private licensees, including circus parties, forcibly separated elephant calves from their mothers.

The young elephants would then be shackled for months and subjected to torturous training sessions to perform tricks. The court's intervention is a resounding denouncement of these cruel practices.


  • From the Streets to the Courtroom: Actor Jaya Ahsan's Initiative

Actor Jaya Ahsan, who took the initiative alongside PAW to bring this issue to the court's attention, expressed optimism regarding the decision's potential impact.

The legal case gained prominence last year when a young elephant, exploited for begging on the streets, met a tragic end by colliding with a train.

Ahsan's efforts, backed by the PAW Foundation, underscore the collaborative approach needed to address the challenges faced by these endangered elephants.


  • Putting an End to Brutal Training: "Hadani" Practices

The court order is a stride towards ending the harsh training inflicted on captive elephants, known as "hadani."

Elephants are often painted in bright colors and forced to perform unnatural tricks as part of street shows or circus performances.

Animal rights activists have long decried these practices, emphasizing the need for legislative measures to curb such exploitation.

In 2019, police rescued two emaciated elephants used for roadside begging, highlighting the urgency of addressing the welfare of these majestic creatures.

Also Read: 5 Extinct Animal Breeds Scientists Are Doing Everything to Revive


Future Prospects: Safeguarding Asian Elephants in Bangladesh

The court's order is vital in safeguarding the remaining Asian elephants in Bangladesh. By ending the capture and exploitation of these endangered animals, the legal system plays a pivotal role in preserving biodiversity. 

The decision addresses the immediate threats the elephants face and sets a precedent for the ethical treatment of wildlife.

Beyond legal measures, addressing the root causes of elephant exploitation involves mitigating habitat loss.

As logging and agriculture continue encroaching upon the elephants' natural habitats, a comprehensive strategy is needed to balance conservation efforts with sustainable development.

In collaboration with environmental organizations, government initiatives can work towards ensuring that the elephants have viable habitats free from the threats of capture and exploitation.