Police and forest officials in Kerala, probing the killing of the wild pregnant elephant, have narrowed down the search to a rubber estate owner, his son and their accomplice, an officer associated with the investigation said.
On Friday, the police recorded the arrest of 38-year-old Wilson, a rubber tapper, and are in lookout for Abdul Kareem, the estate owner, and his son Riyazuddin who are believed to be in hiding. Kareem’s estate is located in Ambalappara in Kottopadam panchayat in the buffer zone of the Silent Valley National Park (SVNP) which is frequently visited by wild animals including elephants and pigs.
“The suspects hid the explosive inside a coconut and placed it in the forest as a snare to kill wild pigs. All three of them have played a role in it. We have arrested Wilson and we will catch the other two persons soon,” said the officer.
As part of corroborating evidence, Wilson, post-interrogation, took the police and forest officials to a shed on the plantation where they reportedly prepared the explosives. Some remnants of the explosives were found at the shed.
According to the police, the pregnant elephant chomped on the coconut accidentally on May 12 which resulted in deep injuries inside its mouth. The suspects reportedly knew that the elephant was injured in the explosion the same day. For the next two weeks, the elephant wandered through the area, slipping in and out of the forest, as it endured the pain, unable to eat or drink water. On the morning of May 25, the elephant, thoroughly exhausted and writhing in pain, reached the banks of the Velliyar river. A forest task force team, which spotted the elephant, realised that she was injured. Using two kumki elephants, it tried to rescue her, but she would often charge at them. Finally, on the evening of May 27, the elephant collapsed in the river and died.
M Ummer, a former ward member of the Kottopadam panchayat, said the locals and farmers in the region are frequently troubled by wild animals who raid their crops. Since the area is located close to the buffer zone of the SVNP, the movement of wild elephants is inevitable.
“We often contact the DFO and stage protests when our crops are destroyed. But we have never tried to injure the animals using such snare traps. It’s not a practice that we believe in. And that’s why I don’t think our locals are involved in this,” he said.
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