Nearly four weeks after falling into a marsh and sustaining multiple fractures on her right foot, Arundhati, the 80-year-old camp elephant of Rajaji National Park in Uttarakhand died on Tuesday night of natural causes.
The animal, which was in the centre of a controversy over the state forest department's decision to put it down by using a lethal injection, was suffering from severe pain and had developed sores in her legs.
"Arundhati died after experiencing agonising pain. She could have been saved from such misery had we been allowed to go ahead with the decision to put her to sleep,” said Chief Wildlife Warden Srikant Chandola.
He, however, refused to specify the exact cause of death. The animal had stopped eating since Monday and her condition had started deteriorating rapidly. Chandola said Arundhati would be buried within the park.
After consulting several veterinarians and even taking recourse to traditional medicine to relieve the pachyderm of her pain, Chandola passed a mercy-killing order last Saturday.
But the move had to be postponed after animal rights activists protested against the decision.
The forest department was also served a notice by the Uttarakhand Legal Services Authority and a Haridwar-based lawyer filed a case in court seeking action against forest officials for deciding to 'kill' Arundhati.
While the animal, which was unable to stand up and move lay suffering, questions were raised on the authority of the state forest department to pass an order regarding putting down an injured elephant.
"The decision on putting her down was taken after a panel of three experts had okayed the move. The Wildlife Protection Act also authorises the Chief Wildlife Warden to take such a step for animals that are disabled beyond recovery,” said Chandola.