A 25-year-old man, Mahendra Shinde, was killed by a cow elephant at Byculla zoo on Sunday after he entered its enclosure.
The incident took place around 1.30 pm when Lakshmi, the older of the two elephants at the zoo, was eating. “Lakshmi was in the feed house when the man made an unauthorised entry into the enclosure,” said Dr Sanjay Tripathi, zoo veterinarian. “The elephant was startled and charged out of the feed house and hit the man over the head.”
The man was rushed to JJ Hospital, but died before he could be admitted.
“Lakshmi is 53 and has never been hostile or injured any humans,” said the vet, adding that elephants get angry if they are disturbed while they eat.
The Byculla police have ruled out negligence on the part of zoo authorities and have registered a case of accidental death. Investigation is on. “It appears that there was no negligence on the part of zoo authorities,” said T. Ghodge, senior inspector from Byculla police station.
Zoo authorities allege the man may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol. “The victim, a drug peddler, jumped off the wall and entered the cage,” said an officer, requesting anonymity.
Some activists blame the incident on people’s attitude. “There are signs that ask you not to play with animals; you cannot blame zoo authorities if they ignore them,” said Punam Singavi, president of Hariyali Trust, an environmental group.
Others, however, feel the zoo is at fault. “There is a caretaker at each enclosure to make sure people don’t trouble animals. What was the caretaker doing?” asks Sunish Subaramanian, secretary, Plant and Animal Welfare Society.