March 29, 2010 4:59:45 am
Backdoor Entry : Staff at lunch,unidentified visitor sneaked into enclosure and startled animals,kicked to death by usually timid female
A zoo visitor who had sneaked into an enclosure was killed by an elephant today,the first such incident in the 149-year history of the city zoo.
Apparently alarmed by the presence of a stranger,Lakshmi,70,kicked the man,who was in his forties,has not been identified and is suspected to have been on drugs. Another female elephant,Anarkali,50,was in the enclosure with Lakshmi,but there were no mahouts or workers,all having gone for lunch.
The man is believed to have entered through a gate to the back of the enclosure. The elephants were chained but he apparently got within range of Lakshmis giant legs. The zoo does have security but the mans presence possibly went unnoticed because he used the back entrance.
Between 1 and 1.30 pm,when the staff including the mahouts of the elephants had ushered the animals into the feeding enclosure and had left for lunch,the man strayed into the area,presumably through a back gate,unlocked the feeding enclosure and entered it, said Dr Sanjay Tripathi,the veterinary doctor at the zoo.
The distance between the visitors wall and enclosure compound wall is large and no one might have seen the man entering, he said.
Zoo officials defended Lakshmi,saying she was a quiet animal and pointing out it was the intruders fault. Female elephants are more timid than males anyway and they normally avoid strangers,said Dr Komal Pawar of the zoo. The man probably did something to provoke or frighten them,she said.
We suspect that when the man entered the enclosure,his presence as a stranger must have startled the animals,caused them to panic and in the process one of them hit the man. His body was discovered by the zoo staff after they returned from lunch. He died before undergoing treatment, said assistant inspector B Ghawte of Byculla police station. The man was declared dead at JJ Hospital.
The man had gone to the zoo alone and his body is yet to be claimed. Prima facie it appears he was a drug addict and might have strayed into the enclosure,either in jest or under the influence of alcohol or drugs, Ghawte said. Police said the post mortem and blood tests will give a clearer picture.
Preliminary investigations have indicated that there was no negligence on part of the zoo authorities. No one is supposed to venture inside the prohibited enclosure, said Ghawte.
The BMC is in the process of redeveloping the zoo into world-class at a cost over Rs 400 crore. According to a notice by the Central Zoo Authority,zoos and state wildlife departments across India should relocate captive elephants to sanctuaries,camps or animal reserves. It has been proposed the city zoos elephants be moved to Sanjay Gandhi National Park but a decision has been deferred.
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