June 4, 2020/Kerala-
The killing of a pregnant wild elephant has triggered a nationwide outrage even as Kerala chief minister promised strict action against the offenders. “The forest department is probing the case and the culprits won’t be spared,” chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Wednesday.
Mannarkkad forest division registered a case and initiated a probe into killing of the 15-year-old cow elephant.
Two organizations announced cash reward to anyone providing information that would lead to the arrest of the offenders.
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The elephant had chewed on an explosive-stuffed pineapple that went off in its mouth. The injured animal stood in Velliyar River, where it died on May 27 at Thiruvizhamkunnu forest section in Kottopadam grama panchayat. The forest department had employed two kumki elephants to rescue the injured animal. The efforts went in vain.
According to Mannarkkad divisional forest officer (DFO) Sunil Kumar, the elephant might have come from Silent Valley National Park’s buffer zone. It died on a private land 300m from Thiruvizhamkunnu forest section. “We have registered a case for killing the wild elephant but nobody has been arrested. We are waiting for the postmortem report to find out the exact cause of its death,” he said. The officer said the firecracker-filled fruit could have been placed to kill crop-raiding wild animals.
Wildlife warden of Silent Valley National Park Samuel V Pachuau said that patrolling has been intensified after the elephant’s death.
Meanwhile, BJP leader Maneka Gandhi slammed the state government—and Rahul Gandhi—for not taking cruelty against animals seriously. She came down heavily on the ill-treatment of captive elephants. “Forest secretary should be removed and the minister (for wildlife protection), if he has any sense, should resign. Rahul Gandhi is from that area, why has he not taken action,” she asked.
The elephant’s tragic end became public after a forest official, Mohan Krishnan, tendered an emotional apology on his Facebook page. “Sorry sister,” Krishnan, who witnessed the elephant’s death, posted on Facebook. “With her mouth and tongue destroyed in the explosion, she paced around hungry without being able to eat. She must have been more worried about the health of the child inside her than about her own hunger.”
Several celebrities including Virat Kohli, Anushka Sharma, Shraddha Kapoor, Randeep Hooda, John Abraham and Akshay Kumar demanded action against animal cruelty. Actor Prithviraj Sukumaran also condemned the inhuman act. “Appalled to hear about what happened in Kerala. Let’s treat our animals with love and bring an end to these cowardly acts,” Kohli tweeted. Wicket-keeper batsman Rishabh Pant, too, vented his anger. “Heartbroken, speechless, angry & shocked to read the news about the pregnant elephant in Kerala,” he tweeted.
Meanwhile, Humane Society International-India (HSI), an organization working against animal cruelty, on Wednesday offered Rs 50,000 to anyone who would help in bringing the culprit to book. It asked to share any information about the case over the phone +917674922044 or email email@example.com.
Condemning the incident, the organization said that “the elephant might have accessed this cracker-filled pineapple, originally meant to catch wild boars. Further, it is believed that the elephant stood for a prolonged time in the Velliyar with its trunk in water, to nurse the wound.” HSI also called for improving the government systems of ex-gratia payment and the need for crop insurance schemes that would safeguard the interest of communities while not compromising on the welfare of animals.
Announcing a reward of Rs 1 lakh, Wildlife SOS, an NGO, said the practice of stuffing explosives in food materials has been often done to maim and kill wild animals. It added that it would ensure that the heinous act would not go unpunished. The NGO could be contacted over its elephant hotline 9971699727 or over email, firstname.lastname@example.org.
In April, a cow elephant had died in a similar fashion at Pathanapuram forest range under Punalur division in Kollam, a top forest officer said. The officer said forest officials found the elephant in a serious condition from the fringe areas of the forests in Pathanapuram.
“The pachyderm was found alienated from the herd. Its jaw was broken and it was unable to eat. It was weak. When forest officials approached, it ran into the forest and joined the herd of elephants waiting there. Next day, the elephant was again found alienated from its herd. Proper treatment was given but, it succumbed to its wounds,” the officer said.