HC allows Gujarat based religious trust to retain hippo of Asiad Circus

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New Delhi, Apr 15 (PTI) The Delhi High Court on Thursday allowed a religious trust in Ahmedabad to retain in its care a 9-year-old hippopotamus owned by the Asiad Circus.

The court also gave the Environment Ministry and the Central Zoo Authority (CZA) time till September 30 to decide whether it was going to frame any rules for protection of exotic species which do not come under the ambit of the Wildlife Protection Act.

Justice Prathiba M Singh allowed the trust to keep the mammal in its care after the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI), which inspected the premises where the hippo was being kept, expressed satisfaction with the care and facilities being provided.

AWBI, in an affidavit filed in court, has said that the facilities in the Ahmedabad-based Radhe Krishna Mandir Hathi Kalyan Trust, which was given custody of the hippo in 2019, were in compliance with the guidelines laid down by the CZA.

The court allowed the trust to retain the hippo in its care subject to the condition that the mammal shall be provided the proper care and facilities in accordance with the CZA guidelines.

The direction came on a 2018 plea by animals rights organisation People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) seeking immediate seizure of the male hippopotamus.

PETA, in its plea, had said that the hippopotamus was imported by the Asiad Circus company from Sanjay Gandhi Biological Park in Patna in February 2015 and was being trained to give 'performance illegally' and treated with cruelty. It had also sought a direction to the Environment Ministry and CZA to frame rules for protection of exotic wild animals, including their exchange, transfer, acquisition and use, to reduce their sufferings.

On Thursday, the court directed the ministry and CZA to treat PETA's plea for framing of rules as a representation and to take a decision by September 30 on whether any rules need to be framed.

With the direction, the court disposed of the plea.

The court also discharged the non-bailable warrants it had issued against the owner of Asiad circus for failing to appear before it during the proceedings as he tendered an unconditional apology and was also present in person during the hearing. PTI HMP SA