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Timeline story of Kapilash Zoo, Elephant Rescue Center and Rakesh Elephant

Ramesh AS

Sep 20, 2020 — 

18 July 2007

Project Elephant gives green signal to Dhenkanal for Elephant Rescue center and asks them to get approval from CZA.

31 July 2007
PCCF/CWLW Odisha sends the proposal with map, master layout plan and design to Project Elephant and CZA.

10 October 2014
MOU signed between CZA and PCCF/CWLW Odisha to retain 3 elephants already in the ZOO adhering to the conditions and guidelines by CZA.

09 November 2018
Central Zoo Authority renewed recognition of Kapilash Zoo till 28-09-2019 subject to the compliance of the suggestions and recommendations made by CZA. 

Rescued wild animals (Four-Horned Antelope and Mongoose) put on display should be immediately moved to the off display area of the Zoo. In the absence of an off display area, the rescued animals should be shifted to a recognised Rescue centre/Zoo having such facilities. Domestic animals (Rabbits and Mithun) housed in Zoo should be immediately removed. Master layout plan to be submitted within 3 months.

It was observed that the Zoo is accepting rescued animals though it does not have appropriately designed enclosures and upkeep facilities for the species as well as the facilities keeping them in isolation during quarantine period. Unless the zoo has an appropriate facility of prescribed standard to house animals in the off-display area of the zoo, the zoo should refrain from accepting rescued animals for which it does not have facility.

It was also observed that the Zoo management is not reporting the source, legality and facility of housing, upkeep and healthcare of rescued animals which has been accepted for housing (Star tortoise, Peafowl, Rose ringed parakeet, Emu, Elephant Four-horned antelope, Small Indian Civet, Mongoose).

It was observed that one of the four elephants housed in the rescue center of the Zoo is chained on three legs while other 2 elephants on two legs. Also, none of the chains have a sheath to provide cushion and avoid injury to elephants. It should be ensured that the elephants are housed in the Zoo as per the guidelines issued in the matter by CZA.

All the captive wild animals in the Zoo should be encouraged to express their natural behaviour. The Zoo management is constructing enclosed animals of endangered species (Sloth bear) without obtaining approval of design from CZA.

It is observed that the diet of animals being offered is different from the diets that are to be given to the animals as per records. Biryani and cooked rice was being fed to few animals on the day of evaluation.

It is observed that solid waste generated in the elephant rescue center of the Zoo is being disposed right behind the animals leading to unhygienic conditions.

It is observed from the records that consultant Veterinarian's visit to the zoo is not regular. It is informed that the consultant veterinarian visits the zoo once in a week. The zoo is housing many endangered species. As per rules, housing of endangered species requires deployment of curatorial staff and a full time veterinarian.

The zoo personnel involved in upkeep and healthcare of the captive wild animals are not screened against zoonotic diseases.

The post-mortem report of the Mugger that died in the zoo on 26-01-2018 is not available in Zoo records. On perusal of records, it is observed that the cause of death in most of the cases is Pneumonia. It is also observed that the cause of death in case of a small Indian civet, female elephant that died on 08-01-2018 and Sambar that died on 07-01-2018, is inconclusive. However no further diagnosis has been carried out to determine the cause of death conclusively.

Four elephants (3 male, 1 female) housed in the off display area of the Zoo were rescued on 07-07-2010, 24-12-2011, 04-09-2012 and 14-05-2018 respectively. However, approval of the central Zoo Authority for their acquisition under Section 38-I of WPA 1972 has not been obtained.

17 January 2020
CWLW Odisha gives permission to DFO Angul/Dhenkanal Division to capture the wild elephant, presently known as Rakesh and house him at "Elephant Rescue Center" a space earmarked within Kapilash Zoo premises for Elephant rescue and rehabilitation, which is yet to be recognized by CZA.

22 January 2020
The wild tusker is caught and brought to Kapilash Zoo.

06 February 2020
After 2 weeks of capturing, DFO Dhenkanal writes to Central Zoo Authority and seeks approval for housing of the rescued (captured) elephant, who is already housed in the centre with chains on all 4 legs and tethered on a concrete floor with no roof.

The Wildlife Protection Act 1972 Rule 38I says, the Zoo should get "prior" permission for acquiring animals.

Rule 38-I. Acquisition of animals by a zoo.—(1) Subject to the other provisions of this Act, no zoo shall acquire, sell or transfer any wild animal or captive animal specified in Schedules I and II except with the previous permission of the Authority. (2) No zoo shall acquire, sell or transfer any wild or captive animal except from or to a recognised zoo.

07 February 2020
CZA inspects Kapilash Zoo regarding the renewal of recognition.

03 March 2020
CZA responds to CWLW Odisha's request for approval of housing of Rakesh Elephant with the following points.
(a) "Kapilash Elephant Rescue center" does not have recognition under section 38H of WPA 1972, whereas "Kapilash Zoo" has recognition under section 38H of WPA 1972.

(b) Establishment and operation of Elephant rescue center needs prior approval and permission from CZA. However "off display area" of existing zoo for the rescue of wild animals, has to be a part of the master plan of the ZOO.

(c) As and when rescued wild animals are accepted by a recognized zoo for housing, a report indicating source from which the animal is received, legality of acquisition and the facilities available at the Zoo for housing, upkeep and healthcare shall be sent to CWLW of the state. Provided that in case the rescued animal pertains to an endangered species, a copy of the report shall also be sent to the Central Zoo Authority. In the instant case, it is not clear whether the place housing rescued elephant is a recognised zoo.

06 April 2020
DFO Dhenkanal sends an explanation to CWW & PCCF Odisha, regarding the above concerns raised and also affirms that no information received regarding recognition of Elephant Rescue center at Kapilash.

The elephant rescue center at Kapilash forms a part of Zoo, spreading across 4 hectares of "Off display area" within 26.64 hectares of area of Zoo. The space was earmarked in the Kapilash zoo masterplan submitted to CZA on 25-11-2016. CZA had objected to the Master Layout plan and asked for revision on 06-02-2020 which is being compiled by DFO Dhenkanal.

13 April 2020
A complaint has been sent to CZA, Project Elephant and Odisha Forest department regarding the ill-treatment of Rakesh Elephant by Mr.Ramesh.

14 April 2020
CZA sends email to Odisha Forest Department seeking explanation on the complaint.

16 April 2020
DFO Dhenkanal sends explanation to PCCF/CWLW Odisha in response to the complaint on ill treatment of wild caught Elephant Rakesh. After signing MOU with CZA in 2014 no information was received regarding the recognition of the Elephant Rescue center. The recognition of Kapilash Zoo was valid upto 28-09-2019 and renewal application was submitted with fees. Response was sent on 31-12-2019 to the observations made by CZA earlier on 07-10-2019 regarding the renewal of the Zoo recognition. Roof has been provided to the elephant shelter. Drinking water is provided by caretakers at regular intervals. Claims the capture of Rakesh Elephant, treat and nurture in the Elephant Rescue center is not illegal and is within the ambit of existing rules.

A copy of the daily health observation report of the 5 elephants in the center reads "Kapilash Zoo" and not "Elephant Rescue Center". Antibiotics and Multivitamins are provided and wounds are in an advanced stage of healing.

20 August 2020
An RTI reply from Project Elephant says, recognition of Kapilash Elephant Rescue center is pertaining to and is the mandate of CZA. Project Elephant Division do not have any information regarding the capture and housing of Rakesh Elephant in Kapilash Zoo.

14 September 2020
A news on Business World reports that Government of India has released to Odisha over 35 crores during 2019-21 under centrally sponsored schemes for tiger and elephant conservation. #ProjectTiger and #ProjectElephant are addressing the threat of poaching and helping these majestic species thrive in their natural habitat.

14 September 2020
RTI reply from CZA regarding recognition of Kapilash Elephant Rescue center and validity of recognition of Kapilash Zoo. The requested information is available on the Public Authority's official website accessible at

From the information available on the above website, there is no recognized "Kapilash Elephant Rescue Center" listed. Also the recognition of "Kapilash Zoo" as a small category zoo is valid upto 28 September 2019.

From all the above information it is clear that "Kapilash Elephant Rescue center" is not yet recognized by CZA and renewal of Kapilash Zoo recognition is under process. There is no prior permission sought from Central Zoo Authority before capturing and housing the Rakesh Elephant in the ZOO as similar to the other rescued elephants in the center. Proper shelter with mud floor, roof and drinking water facilities were not provided for the Rakesh Elephant and was tied with chains on all four legs. Moreover decisions were taken to tame the elephant as Kumki and has been locked up in Kraal. The conservation funds released by the Central Government to mitigate Human Elephant conflict inorder for the Elephants to thrive in their natural habitat, seems to be misused after knowing the above story of Rakesh Elephant. CZA also failed to question the legal discrepancies during their inspection of Kapilash Zoo on 07-02-2020, which resulted in the physical and psychological suffering of Rakesh Elephant.

The Central Zoo Authority and Project Elephant Division should immediately order to shift all the elephants in the Zoo to an authorised elephant rehabilitation center.

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