A 48-year-old female elephant, Laxmi, died Thursday morning in Dahisar at her owner’s home, where she was allegedly held captive. With Laxmi’s death, Mumbai has lost its last elephant. The reason for the death is yet to be known as the post-mortem could not be conducted. “We cannot say for sure what caused her death as the postmortem is still to be conducted. The animal could not be taken to the post-mortem centre in Naigaon after it was stuck in a traffic jam,” said Santosh Kank, Range forest officer.
After the elephant was reported dead around 7.30 in the morning, the forest department lifted the animal with a crane and put her in a tempo for the post-mortem. However, after it was stuck in a jam, doctors will conduct the post-mortem only on Friday morning.
Honorary wildlife warden, Mumbai City, Sunish Kunju alleged that Laxmi was ill-treated by her owner, Sabhashankar Pandey, and that could be a reason for her death. “The right environment and diet are very important for any animal to survive. In this case, we have often found the owner misusing the elephant for begging and taking him out for film shoots, weddings and temple festivals without permission,” he said.
According to Kunju, elephants in the city do not get adequate care as the doctors here do not have specialised knowledge to treat them. “We do not have any experts to take care of elephants in Mumbai. Without knowing how to handle them it is very difficult to give them the right treatment,” he added.
In 2016, another elephant owned by Pandey, 38-year-old Roopa, died at Film City where she was taken for a shoot. The post-mortem revealed that she suffered from liver failure and had stones in her bile duct and liver. Doctors said she was unfit and should not have travelled from Dahisar to Goregaon for the shoot.
“There were reports of misuse the last time his elephant died. We had constituted an inquiry but no action was taken,” said Kank. In 2013, the Deputy Conservator of Forests, Thane division, had written to the Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife Warden, Bihar government requesting them to cancel the ownership of all his elephants as he was unable to look after them well and hand them over to Elephant Rescue Centre, Haryana. The report mentioned that a committee of expert veterinarians were inspecting the health and upkeep of all the elephants.
“Most of the elephants are injured and prone to tuberculosis and skin disease. Therefore, there is huge danger to the life of these elephants,” it read. Notices were also sent by the Animal Welfare Board of India to Pandey between 2013 to 2014 to suspend his registration certificate issued under Performing Animals (Registration) Rules, 2001.
“If they would have taken action against him then both elephants could have been saved,” added Kunju.
Pandey could not be reached as his family members said he was not in a position to speak.