Reacting on the tragic death of a pregnant elephant in Palakkad district, which has evoked widespread condemnation, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan Thursday stated that an investigation focussing on three suspects is underway and asserted that everything possible will be done to bring the “culprits to justice”.
“An investigation is underway, focusing on three suspects. The police and forest departments will jointly investigate the incident. The district police chief and the district forest officer visited the site today. We will do everything possible to bring the culprits to justice,” CM Vijayan tweeted, adding that concerns relating to the incident will not go in vain.
An investigation is underway, focusing on three suspects. The police and forest departments will jointly investigate the incident. The district police chief and the district forest officer visited the site today. We will do everything possible to bring the culprits to justice.
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) June 4, 2020
The Kerala CM also said that his government will try to address the causes behind the increased incidences of human-wildlife conflict.
However, CM Vijayan condemned the hate campaign against the state and said Kerala is “a society that respects the outrage against injustice”.
“We are saddened by the fact some have used this tragedy to unleash a hate campaign. Lies built upon inaccurate descriptions and half truths were employed to obliterate the truth. Some even tried to import bigotry into the narrative. Wrong priorities,” he continued.
“If there is any silver lining in this, it is that we now know that we can make our voices heard against injustice. Let us be that people who fight injustice in all its forms; everytime, everywhere,” he added.
The elephant’s killing came to spotlight on May 30 after Mohan Krishnan, a section forest officer in Mannarkkad in Palakkad district, wrote a heartfelt note on Facebook which quickly went viral.
It has been alleged that the elephant was injured after it was fed a pineapple stuffed with explosives. The angle of whether someone intentionally gave the elephant the fruit-laced explosive is being probed. But the strong possibility before the officials is that it could have been a snare laid to kill wild boars and pigs.
“In the forest fringes, there have been reports of crackers and country-bombs being used to trap and kill pigs and other wild animals. It’s illegal too, so we’re not belittling it. But it could be a possibility that the elephant accidentally ate it,” K K Sunil Kumar, divisional forest officer, Mannarkkad told The Indian Express.
Earlier in the day, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the central government has taken a “very serious” note of the incident. “We will not leave any stone unturned to investigate properly and nab the culprit(s). This is not an Indian culture to feed fire crackers and kill,” he tweeted.
Background of the incident
The Indian Express has learnt that that forest officials had first spotted the 15-year-old injured animal on May 23 at a forest border. As per sources, the exact location where the elephant was injured, and who was responsible for the explosion that injured her mouth and led to her death, are yet to be ascertained.
On May 23, sources said, forest officials had received information about the presence of an elephant near Ambalappara at the border of Pottiyara forest in Mannarkad division in the Western Ghats. Upon reaching the spot, the officials had seen the elephant with the injured mouth. The elephant had subsequently walked off into the woods.
Two days later, on May 25, the elephant was seen standing in a river in the Theyyamkund area, apparently to cool the wound. A veterinary surgeon, who examined her, told officials that she could not be tranquilised and treated, as the injury was serious.
The forest department had concluded at the time that the injury was at least a week old. It subsequently decided to try to move it out with the help of ‘kumki’ (trained) elephants. When they approached it to bring it to safety using two elephants, it would charge. But otherwise, it remained passive without hurting anyone. For almost 48 hours, the elephant stood in that spot, before succumbing to the deep internal injuries on the evening of May 27.
The elephant’s tragic death became more distressing after a post-mortem examination revealed she was pregnant.
Officials maintained that Krishnan, who was part of the Rapid Response Team that attempted the rescue, had not said in his post that the elephant had been deliberately fed a pineapple stuffed with explosives; he had rather highlighted the dangers of people using explosives to ward off wild animals.
‘Because of injuries, it couldn’t eat or drink for weeks’
Dr David Abraham, assistant forest veterinary officer who conducted the post-mortem of the elephant, said, “Due to the cracker explosion, there were terrible injuries to it’s upper and lower jaws. The area was filled with maggots. Because of the injuries, it could not eat or drink anything for weeks. It was very weak.”
Dr Abraham realised that the elephant was pregnant only towards the end of the post-mortem when he noticed the enlarged uterus. “It was an incidental finding. The foetus was probably one or two months old. It’s a rarest of the rare case when a pregnant elephant dies as a result of such cracker-related injuries. It’s very sad.”
After the completion of the post-mortem, the elephant was duly cremated the same day.
With inputs from Vishnu Varma
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