An Amazing ‘Zoo Story’

A trust associated with the Reliance group inaugurated the world’s largest private zoo on February 26. The zoo is the “pet project” of Anant Ambani, son of group head Mukesh Ambani. The zoo is the venue of Anant’s pre-wedding celebrations where the world’s richest and most famous are expected to be in attendance. The project was set up under the shadow of a series of legal challenges around the country by the petitioners concerned, with allegations of illegal transfer of elephants from different parts of India to where the zoo is located in Jamnagar, Gujarat. The project came under the scrutiny of India’s wildlife authorities as well. But, as is not uncommon with such projects associated with the country’s oligarchs, the objections were brushed aside.

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Those familiar with theatre are aware of The Zoo Story, a one-act play written in 1958 by American playwright Edward Albee. The play, through a conversation between two individuals, explores issues related to isolation, loneliness, social disparity, and dehumanisation. The ‘zoo story’ that is going to be recounted here could not be more different. It involves a large number of people, thousands of them. The setting is not a park bench in New York. But in an area in Gujarat, described as the “world’s largest private zoo.” 

In the first three days of March, the pre-wedding festivities of billionaire businessman Mukesh Ambani’s youngest son, Anant Ambani, will be held at Jamnagar, where entities associated with the Reliance group have developed one of the world’s largest zoological gardens. Reliance is one of India’s biggest private corporate conglomerates. The zoo is in proximity to the world’s largest petroleum refinery set up by the group.

Invitation cards with elaborate details of the event have been sent out to over 1,000 guests that include the best-known businesspersons and corporate executives from across the planet, besides entertainment stars, cinema celebrities and sportspersons. Chartered aircraft will ferry the guests to Jamnagar from Mumbai and Delhi and back.

A “mood-board” has been set for each day’s dress code. Hair stylists, make-up artists and Indian-wear drapers will be available for guests at their hotels. Elaborate instructions have been provided on the prevailing weather conditions as well as the amount of luggage that each guest should ideally carry for the three-day stay. Guests have over 2,500 dishes to choose from.

An Unusual Project

On February 12, the Delhi High Court refused to entertain a petition seeking prohibition on “displaying or exhibiting the animals” at the zoo, in any manner whatsoever, to the guests who would have been invited for the pre-wedding celebrations.

It was alleged that at particular risk on account of the high-profile event are around 200 elephants in the possession of a Hindu religious trust which is indirectly controlled by the Reliance group. The trust– known as the Radha Krishna Temple Elephant Welfare Trust (henceforth, the trust) – has kept the elephants, transferred from various parts of the country, in a facility spread over 998 acres within the green belt of Reliance group’s Jamnagar refinery.

The trust is of a religious nature, as it also manages a temple located inside the group’s 750-acre residential township, Reliance Greens, in Moti Khavdi at a distance of around 35 kilometers from Jamnagar. The “artificial jungle” in the area has more than 10 million trees, including what is supposed to be Asia’s largest mango orchard.

In response to the petition in the Delhi High Court, the counsel for the trust said that there exists no provision in law that prohibit the hosts from inviting guests to view the facilities set up for the animals, especially when the event is of a non-commercial nature. The counsel further stated that “the complex is a private property and that only a one-time private, personal and non-commercial event” was being held at various locations within it.

“We find that the present petition has been filed purely on the apprehension that some injury or ill-treatment may be caused to the animals during the events scheduled on 01.03.2024 to 03.03.2024. Such sort of petition cannot be entertained simply on the basis of apprehension,” ordered a division bench of the high court comprising Justices Suresh Kumar Kait and Justice Girish Kathpalia.

The bench, however, said that, as a matter of precaution, a high-powered committee which had been formed two years ago by the Tripura High Court for investigations into the affairs of the Trust (more on this later in the article) could be present at the complex during the pre-wedding event and ensure that no “inhumane behavior” is caused to the animals.

The eight-member high-powered committee, headed by Justice (retired) Deepak Verma, a former judge of the Supreme Court of India, had carried out a two-day survey of the area on December 10-11, 2022. The panel was all praise for the state-of-the-art-facilities put in place for the elephants.

The committee mentioned in its report – a copy of which is with the authors of this article – that the trust was formally registered in October 2019 with the office of the Charity Commissioner, Gujarat, a department that looks after the properties and administration of public, religious and charitable trusts in the state. Activities related to the elephant shelter had started a decade earlier.

The report states that the trust regularly files its audit report with the Charity Commissioner as per the provisions of the Gujarat Public Trust Act, 1950 and the Bombay Public Trust (Gujarat) Rules, 1961. The trust is managed by four trustees – Gombahadur Chhetri, Dariya Singh Poonia, Bhushan Oza and David Thimothy – who are all employees of the Reliance group.

The Nathwani Connection

The affairs of the trust are managed by a long-time Ambani loyalist, 38-year-old Dhanraj Nathwani. His father Parimal Nathwani is a member of the Rajya Sabha, the Upper House of Parliament. The father and son are important figures in the Ambani family’s vast business empire that straddles a wide swathe of industries, including textiles, energy and telecommunications. According to Forbes, the head of the Reliance conglomerate, Mukesh Ambani, is personally worth over $100 billion making him one of India’s – and one of the world’s – richest men.

Returning to the trust that manages the zoo, this is what the Verma Committee stated: “(The) Trust receives donations from Reliance Industries Limited as part of their CSR (Corporate Social Responsibility activities) and otherwise as needed and senior executives such as Mr Dhanraj Nathwani devote substantial time and attention to the Trust and its activities. He is also involved with the Trust and the activities of the Elephants for (a) long number of years.”

Dhanraj Nathwani heads the  Gujarat Cricket Association, a post vacated by Union Home Minister Amit Shah. He is also a group president of Reliance Industries Limited. In June 2022, he had shared on the social media platform Twitter (now “X”) a document on a plain piece of paper that the trust had received “many elephants from donors, such as elephants belonging to circuses, temples and individuals who did not have the financial means to take care of the elephants.”

He had told the Verma Committee that the establishment of the zoo would not have been possible without the support of Anant Ambani who, he thought, deserved a national award for his contribution to the welfare of the elephants.

The committee noted: “According to Mr Nathwani, the contribution, advice, guidance and assistance received by the said Trust from Mr Anant Ambani has transformed the lives of the Elephants and the thought, encouragement and work put in by Mr Anant Ambani for animal welfare and in particular for the Elephants is like none other, perhaps in the world and is deserving of national recognition and awards.”

Information Obtained Under the RTI Act

The two writers of this report have been working on documenting the circumstances that led to the setting up of the zoo in Jamnagar for over a year and half. In response to a question filed by one of the authors in November 2022 under the Right to Information (RTI) Act, 2005, the office of the Charity Commissioner of Gujarat said that no trust named Radha Krishna Temple Elephant Welfare Trust, is registered in Jamnagar.

“Till 30 November 2022, as many as 8,004 trusts and 1,435 societies have been registered with this office. A preliminary enquiry has revealed that no Trust with this name [Radha Krishna Temple Elephant Welfare Trust] is registered with this office” stated the Jamnagar office of the Charity Commissioner in a letter that was delivered to one of the authors (Ayaskant Das) on December 17.

The answer to a separate query under the RTI Act, that had been filed with the District Collector of Jamnagar in November 2022, was pending at the time of publication. We could not ascertain if the trust is registered in any other city.

A Trust, A Board and A Committee

The committee headed by the former judge of the Supreme Court did not consult the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI). The AWBI does not list Radha Krishna Temple Elephant Welfare Trust among the list of organisations registered with it.

In its 70-page report, on page 54, the committee has written that 11 deaths of elephants in the zoo have been reported “out of 181 Elephants over a long period of 14 years.”

The trust states that it informed the Chief Wildlife Warden of Gujarat about the deaths of the elephants. No mention has been made about the number of tuskers (male elephants) with the trust. It is not known how many tuskers died and what happened to the ivory, if any.

A questionnaire was sent to the trust. Among the questions was one related to what was done to the remains of the dead elephants, including ivory, a precious material derived from the teeth and tusks of pachyderms, and hides. The head of corporate communications in Reliance Industries Limited, too, did not respond to our questionnaire sent on February 19.

As far as the number of elephants at the disposal of the trust is concerned, it should be noted that the Union government had issued a directive in September 2017 listing out standards and norms for the recognition of Elephant Rehabilitation and Rescue Centres under provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972, whereby a ceiling of a maximum number of 50 elephants was placed on any rehabilitation and rescue centre. It is not known if the trust has been recognised as an “Elephant Rehabilitation and Rescue Centre” by the government in New Delhi.

The Verma Committee was formed by the Tripura High Court after a public interest litigation (PIL petition was filed challenging the transfer of 23 elephants from their natural habitats in Arunachal Pradesh and Tripura in North-east India to Jamnagar. On November 7, 2022, a division bench of the Tripura High Court had ordered an enquiry into the functioning of the trust through the establishment of the “high-powered” committee. The bench, comprising Chief Justice Indrajit Mahanty and Justice SG Chattopadhyay, had ordered that the Verma Committee complete its inspection of the premises of the zoo within 10 days of issuance of the order. The deadline was extended. The final report was dated April 1, 2023.

When contacted by one of the authors of this article soon after the issuance of the order by Tripura High Court, Justice Verma refused to comment.

Allegations and Litigation Galore

In recent years, many pachyderms have been handed over to the trust in Jamnagar from various parts of the country, notwithstanding objections by activists and wildlife conservationists who filed several PILs in various high courts of the country.

The petitioners raised questions over the wisdom and sagacity of transporting elephants over long distances, from their natural habitats to an artificial forest hundreds of kilometers away. The petitioners alleged that elephants – a species of animals known to traverse long distances in herds – should not be held “captive” in an area of around 1,000 acres surrounded by “low voltage fencing.”

On September 15, 2022, the trust told a division bench of the Bombay High Court in Nagpur, during the hearing of a PIL against a decision of the forest department of Maharashtra to transfer a batch of elephants to it, that the animals that are proposed to be handed over to it are not wild but have been bred in captivity thereby not attracting provisions of the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972.

“… the elephants in question are proposed to be handed over to applicant-Trust in order to take care of their well-being and relieve them of their sufferings and this is going to be done under medical care and scientific supervision in as much as, all these elephants proposed to be shifted are having microchip so that their movement and also their condition can be monitored on continuous basis,” the bench, comprising Justices GA Sanap and Sunil B Shukre, was told.

The trust also told the bench that the Reliance group had “got nothing to do with the Trust and funding of the Trust only comes through the funds released to the Trust in discharge of its corporate social responsibility”.

The high court had registered a suo motu PIL on the basis of a newspaper report that the panchayat of Kamlapur village in Maharashtra’s Gadchiroli district, from where the elephants are sought to be shifted, has passed a unanimous resolution opposing the local forest department’s decision.

The report had alleged that the forest department had shifted nine elephants to the Jamnagar based trust – six of these belonged to the Tadoba-Andheri Tiger Reserve while the remaining three were from the Allapalli Forest Division. The news report further claimed that Kamlapur had eight elephants which had been born and bred in the locality of the village and that “healthy elephants are being shifted from their natural habitat to a rescue centre without any provocation.”

These developments assume significance because they came close on the heels of an investigation by the Forest Department of Odisha that probed whether elephants had been illegally smuggled to Gujarat. There is at least one media report that claimed that fake permits were found to have been issued for transportation of elephants from Odisha to. The report, quoting unnamed sources in the department, claimed that at least eight instances were discovered in which live elephants were being transported to Gujarat with the help of fake No Objection Certificates (NOCs).

“At least seven of the eight NOCs were identical and had been issued using forged signatures of government officials,” a senior official of the Odisha government told one of the writers of this article on the condition of anonymity.

He alleged that the animals were destined for the temple trust in Jamnagar, adding: “The source of the animals was also the same in all seven cases. Only the descriptions of the animals differed in each NOC. The forest and wildlife department of Gujarat alerted us after discovering the fake NOCs. On our part, we alerted our counterparts in other parts of the state including Assam and other north-eastern states,”

However, the Verma Committee found in its inspection that all paperwork pertaining to the transfer of elephants were in order.

Law on Movement of Endangered Elephants

The Asian elephant is listed as an endangered species in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 requiring rigorous protection. Any instance of illegal trading, transfer or sale of the animal invites the harshest punishment. As per extant rules, anyone transferring a live elephant can do so only with an NOC from the Chief Wildlife Warden of the state concerned.

The Act, in its present form, stipulates that any kind of transfer or transport of animals cannot be of a commercial nature. Amendments to the Act, which were introduced through a Bill in the Lok Sabha in December 2021, contained a clause that would have allowed private individuals to engage in commercial trading of elephants. Following opposition from the civil society and environmental protection groups, however, the Lok Sabha decided to drop the provision for “commercial trading” of elephants.

Over the past few years, there have been many transfers – mostly through gifts and donations – from various parts of India to Gujarat where the trust has been readily accommodating the animals.

Sources in Odisha’s Forest Department say that the state accounts for most of the elephants that have been transferred to Gujarat. No figures are readily available on the numbers of elephants in Odisha in which wildlife sanctuaries, including in Chandaka on the outskirts of the state capital, Bhubaneshwar, and Simlipal in Mayurbhanj, the native district of India’s President Droupadi Murmu, were once considered rich with pachyderms.

The Naveen Patnaik-headed Odisha government has skipped conducting the biennial census of elephants for the past five years. A census is likely to be conducted in April-May in 2024. According to the last census of elephants in Odisha conducted in 2017, the total number of elephants in the state was 1,976.

The World’s Largest Zoo?

According to the website, Guinness World Records, the largest zoo in the world at present is the Moscow zoo in Russia which has nearly 24,500 animals belonging to 1,226 different species. There are other large zoos in different countries, including the US.

A source close to the Reliance group told one of the writers that the one in Jamnagar – Greens Zoological, Rescue and Rehabilitation Centre (GZRRC) – is being planned to become the largest in the world over an area of over 250 acres.

The zoo had been in the centre of a controversy in the past. Brij Kishor Gupta, a former senior official with the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests & Climate Change (MOEFCC), who was closely involved in the formulation of the zoo’s Master Plan, was hired by the Reliance group. The annual report of the GZRRC for 2022-23 states that Gupta is heading the zoo as its director.

In November 2022, protests by citizens’ groups were reported from Guwahati, the capital of Assam, over alleged transfer of certain endangered and vulnerable species of animals from the North-eastern state’s government-owned zoo to the Jamnagar zoo. These included four Moor macaques, a species of monkey listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), a multi-national organisation in which India is a member. A pair of Indian rhinoceros, which the IUCN lists as vulnerable, was also allegedly transferred along with the macaques from Guwahati to Jamnagar.

According to the inventory published in the 2022-23 annual report of GZRRC, the total number of endangered animals (those in Schedule I and II of Wildlife Protection Act, 1972) in the zoo is 1,461. The number of animals with the zoo, which are not endangered, is 3,889.

Reliance and Radha Krishna Temple Elephant Welfare Trust

A newspaper report claimed that the Reliance group is not only providing the Radha Krishna Temple Elephant Welfare Trust with funds but is also “allowing it to use RIL resources for taking care of the elephants”. The report quoted the following from a statement that had been provided by the trust to the newspaper:

“The Trust utilizes about 500 acres of man-made Miyawaki forest, which helps in maintaining a lower temperature … the Trust has provided for each elephant a day shelter (with fans, overhead sprinkling and showering systems) and separate night shelter. Each shed is equipped with imported rubber flooring to keep their foot pad safe and comfortable. In addition, the Trust utilizes about 100 acres of segregated waterbodies in the form of 10 small water bodies and 9 hydro-therapy pools. The Trust has provided for a hydro-therapy pool as most of the Elephants are old and have arthritis.”

Ban on Ivory Trade

Certain news reports published in November 2022 suggested that the Narendra Modi government was keen on lifting an international ban on ivory trade – a ban that India has been supporting for the past more than four decades – apparently over concerns regarding disposal of ever-growing stockpiles of the precious material with various countries, including Namibia.

On November 18, 2022, for the first time in over four decades, India abstained from voting on the ban on ivory trade at the 19th Conference of the Parties (COP19) of the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species of Fauna and Flora in Panama City.

A deal to lift the international ban on ivory trade from Namibia was reportedly entered into by the Indian government while procuring nine Cheetahs, considered extinct in India for the past seven decades, from the African nation. Modi had, in a much-publicised event on his 72nd birthday on September 18, 2022, released these Namibian Cheetahs into the Kuno National Park in Madhya Pradesh. The Central government had later clarified that there was no quid pro quo with Namibia, vis-à-vis lifting the ban on ivory trade, in written reply in the Rajya Sabha.

More Controversies and Litigation

The Master Plan of the zoo in Jamnagar was cleared in February 2015 by the Central Zoo Authority (CZA), a statutory body under the government of India. At that time, the project proponent had proposed to accommodate only six Asian elephants at the facility. Following the approval of the zoo’s Master Plan, the facility was provided recognition by the CZA in August 2020 for a period of three years subject to certain terms and conditions.

Allegations that central and state zoos have been randomly transferring wild animals into the zoo in Jamnagar, without due diligence, have surfaced time and again. In July 2022, a PIL was filed in the Gujarat High Court alleging that the duty to protect wild animals, as envisaged in the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 cannot be handed over to a privately-owned facility. The PIL, which was filed on the basis of news reports that nearly 94 animals protected under the aforementioned Act had been transferred to the facility from Morocco, alleged that there existed no provision in the first place to grant recognition to a private zoo.

Halar Utkarsh Samiti Trust, the Jamnagar-based petitioner organisation, questioned the way in which the zoo had been allowed to keep the animals without taking into consideration the fact as to whether adequate facilities existed to take care of them.

A division bench of the high court headed by the then Chief Justice Aravind Kumar dismissed the PIL in August 2022 on the basis of a field inspection report of Gujarat forest department officials who found the facilities as sufficient to take care of the captive animals.

During the period the petition of Halar Utkarsh Samiti Trust was pending, wild animals were reportedly transferred from different state-run zoos to the one in Jamnagar. On July 24, 2022, two tigers named Betaal and Shikha reached the Jamnagar zoo from Nainital’s Govind Ballabh Pant High Terrestrial Zoological Park and the Ranibagh Rescue Centre. The Chief Wildlife Warden of Uttarakhand Samir Sinha justified the transfers on the basis of the argument that there was a space crunch at the zoological park and rescue centre in Nainital.

As already mentioned, in May 2022, the wildlife department of Maharashtra had ordered for the transfer of 13 elephants from its possession to the temple trust. These transfers, which were being opposed by wildlife activists, were allowed following an order of officials of Project Elephant, a Centrally sponsored scheme under the Union Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change. The Trust, in turn, assured that the elephants will not be used for commercial purposes including tourism or manual labour.

In mid-June 2022, the Karnataka High Court dismissed a PIL seeking a ban on transfer of four elephants from the Mysuru Palace to the temple trust in Gujarat. The high court dismissed the PIL saying that the trust should, however, “not enter into any commercial use of its facilities” or “should not promote breeding [of elephants] by use of scientific methods''. The PIL had been filed by a Bengaluru-based advocate, MS Muruly.

The four pachyderms at the Mysuru Palace had been rescued from a circus around 20 years ago. Following a court order, the royal family of Mysuru had volunteered to take care of these animals. However, in 2017, the royal family wrote to Karnataka’s Forest Department that handlers had not been taking proper care of the elephants. These elephants were subsequently handed over to the temple trust following permissions from the forest department.

A division bench of the high court comprising Chief Justice Ritu Raj Awasthi and Justice Ashok S Kinagi, which was hearing the aforementioned case, issued a set of detailed guidelines upon the trust for the proper “care and custody of 153 elephants” that were in its possession.

Earlier, in April 2021, the Delhi High Court had handed over a male hippopotamus, which was at the centre of a three-year long legal battle between the NGO People for Ethical Treatment of Animals and the Asiad Circus, to the custody of the temple trust. The male hippo was a part of the Asiad Circus which plunged into financial distress. The NGO had thereafter asked the high court for its immediate intervention to seize the animal.

Following an inspection of the Jamnagar facility by the Animal Welfare Board, the judge hearing the case in the high court, Justice Prathiba M. Singh, said that it was “heartening” to learn that such a facility with “good living conditions and high standards” was being run by the temple trust.

“The journey of Chhotu – the Hippopotamus has finally been a happy one!” said the high court judge while handing over the life-long custody of the animal to the temple trust.

The trust, however, surprisingly refused to accept an elephant in May 2022 possibly because the animal was old and was also not in a physically good enough condition to be transported from Yamuna Nagar in Haryana to Jamnagar. The female pachyderm, Moti (58 years old) had been taken away by authorities from a private individual in 2017 in Delhi on account of unsuitable standards for its care and upkeep. The Delhi High Court ordered that Moti be kept in a facility in Yamuna Nagar for the rest of her life.

Animals From Across the Globe

The CZA has allowed the zoo in Jamnagar to import several endangered, vulnerable and near-threatened animals from Mexico. The permission accorded to the zoo on February 8, 2021 by the authority paved the way for acquiring 286 animals of 17 species from a zoo in San Pedro Garza Garcia, Nuevo Leon, in that country. This number included 50 hybrid Bengal tigers, 50 hybrid lions and American flamingos, 12 African cheetahs, 10 jaguars and as many leopards, cougars, ocelots, margays, Mexican hairy dwarf porcupines, jaguarundis, American black bears, bobcats, Linnaeus’s two-toed sloth, eight brown bear, eight each of two anteater species.

With unconfirmed reports of ‘smuggling’ of wild animals to the zoo in Jamnagar, there has been a sudden spurt in vigilantism as well. On June 7, 2022, volunteers belonging to the All Adi Students Union, an apex organisation of students belonging to the indigenous Adi community of Arunachal Pradesh, apprehended 10 elephants being transported in trucks in the Pasighat area. It later came to light that the pachyderms were being transported from Chowkham in Namsai district of Arunachal Pradesh to the temple trust in Jamnagar linked to Reliance group. There was a huge hue and cry across the state. The wildlife department of the North-eastern state intervened saying that all requisite permissions for transfer of the elephants to Gujarat were in place.

In a media briefing, the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests of Arunachal Pradesh told reporters that the 10 elephants had been “gifted” by six individuals, which probably points toward the modus operandi adopted by communities living in forest areas to hand over captured wild animals to the trust. Soon thereafter, the Gujarat government also stepped in. The 10 elephants, which were mostly sub-adults, were released from Itanagar for the temple trust in Jamnagar following an order by the Gujarat government allowing for the transfers.

The Parliament of India passed the Wildlife Protection Act (Amendment) Act, 2022 in December 2022. The Act removes encumbrances on transfer or transport of captive elephants for “religious or any other purposes” subject to terms and conditions specified by the Central government. Does this pave the way for unbridled transfer of captive elephants to the Reliance Group-controlled Trust, which being a temple trust, is religious in nature? Notably, through the amendment, the word “religious” was introduced into the Act for the first time.

The introduction of the term “religious and any other purpose” into the Act drew criticism from several quarters, including Jairam Ramesh, a senior Congress leader and former Union Environment Minister. A week after Lok Sabha passed the Bill in August 2022, Ramesh, who heads the Parliamentary Standing Committee on Wildlife and Climate Change, wrote to the Union Ministry of Environment objecting to the introduction of the aforementioned term. He wrote:

“The Standing Committee was clear that exceptions should be made only for captive elephants owned by religious institutions but you have expanded the ambit of expansion in a very open-ended and loose manner.”

Notably, the Bill passed by the Lok Sabha does not define “any other purposes” too, thereby leaving the ambit wide open for smuggling of pachyderms.

As already mentioned at the beginning of the article, the Trust does not find mention in the list of registered organisations with the Animal Welfare Board of India. There was no response to queries sent to the Trust asking it to provide its registration number with the board.

Anant Ambani’s Dream Project

The zoo in Jamnagar has been described as a dream project of Anant Ambani, who is a known animal lover having reportedly a huge collection of exotic pets at the family’s palatial residence Antilia, located in a swish area alongside Altamount Road in Mumbai. Anant Ambani’s collection of pets reportedly includes a dog belonging to the species Alaskan Malamute for whom a separate chilled enclosure mimicking the freezing temperatures of its native state of Alaska, in the northwestern extreme of the United States, has been designed in the Ambani family residence in Navi Mumbai. The family also owns another zoo, basically an aviary, in Ghansoli in Navi Mumbai, which has a large collection of snakes and a tank with piranha, the flesh-eating fish.

Anant Ambani says it is only with the blessings of God and his parents that he has got an opportunity to perform seva (selfless service) of the animals. On February 26, in an interview to a media outlet, the junior Ambani said that the facility has been named Vantara.

“I drew inspiration to do this from my mother. In the Hindu religion, it is said that animals are dear to the gods. This also inspired me to open this animal rescue and rehabilitation centre,” he said.

In an exclusive interview with the Noida-based television news channel, CNBC Awaaz, owned by the Network 18 Group which, in turn, is owned by the Reliance group headed by his father, he added:

“We started the wildlife rescue centre building in the peak of COVID … We’ve created a jungle of 600 acres. We created an entire habitat for the elephants and in 2008, we rescued our first elephant. The Greens Zoological Rescue Center started in 2020...We have a total of about 3,000 people working for Green's Zoological Research and Rescue Center. Out of that, we have approximately 20-30 expats. All the expats are in the role of teachers or professors. We take young graduates who have just finished their veterinary graduation from different backgrounds, like nutritionists. We also have some human doctors who are extremely passionate about animals…

“We have saved more than 200 elephants and brought them here from all parts of the country. We do sewa (service) of elephants here. This is not a zoological park but a “sewalaya”. The 600-acre area has been developed as a natural habitat for elephants. This is my passion project. We have made a veterinary hospital with state-of-the-art technology. The hospital has MRI & CT scan machines, endoscopic robotic surgery machines and six surgical centers. We also put prosthetics for the animals at the hospital here. The zoological park will be opened to the public soon,” he said in the interview.

The Verma committee report can be accessed here.

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