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Tuesday, Aug 20, 2019

Lakshmi, Delhi’s last elephant, is missing since July 6

An FIR has been lodged by the Delhi government’s forest department officials in this connection in which they said the pachyderm is missing since July 6.

delhi Updated: Jul 18, 2019 07:51 IST
Vatsala Shrangi
Vatsala Shrangi
Hindustan Times, New Delhi
Lakshmi was seen near Yamuna on July 6.
Lakshmi was seen near Yamuna on July 6. (Sourced)
         

Fifty-nine-year-old Lakshmi, a female elephant, was allegedly taken away by her caretaker to prevent the forest officials from taking custody of her.

An FIR has been lodged by the Delhi government’s forest department officials in this connection in which they said the pachyderm is missing since July 6. She was last seen on the banks of the Yamuna near Shakarpur in east Delhi. The Delhi Police has registered a case and is probing Lakshmi’s disappearance.

She is Delhi’s last elephant, and was supposed to be “seized” by the forest officials and taken to a safe place away from human habitation. However, when the forest officials went to get the mammal, they were allegedly roughed up by the caretaker, mahout and his associates, police said.

In the melee, the caretaker managed to flee with Lakshmi. The forest department then lodged an FIR at the Shakarpur police station.

Until six months ago, Delhi had seven elephants of which five have been sent to Gujarat and Haryana by the forest officials. One elephant, which belongs to a city businessman, was allowed to be kept in Delhi on the basis of a high court order.

The elephants had to be shifted out of Delhi because the city does not provide a natural habitat to house these animals. In 2016, the Delhi high court had asked the forest department to “seize” the elephants and rehabilitate them.

“ On July 6, a team along with police had gone to seize the elephant from near the Yamuna banks at Shakarpur where it was kept by its caretaker Yusuf Ali. On seeing the team, Ali called his relatives, who attacked the officials and took the elephant away,” the complainant, a forest guard, said in the FIR.

The forest officials along with two police constables chased Ali and others took the elephant across the shallow waters of the Yamuna and deep into the forested areas. It could not be spotted after that, the FIR read.

Ali’s son Shaji, who answered his father’s phone when HT called him, said his father was not available as he had gone to a relative’s house.

“The team of officials attacked my mother. The forest department was not supposed to seize the elephant till August 5, as we had filed a contempt petition in the court,” Shaji claimed.

A senior police officer said an FIR was lodged in the matter and a probe was on.

“Ali has been on the run since the matter was reported. We are searching for him,” the police officer said.

“The chase for Lakshmi went on from 11am to around 2pm on July 6 during which forest guards were attacked by the caretaker’s men who took away the elephant. They suffered injuries and are still recovering. The caretaker has taken her away illegally. We have lodged an FIR but, so far, there has been no progress. We need to rescue the elephant,” said a senior forest official.

Lakshmi, who was diagnosed with herpes, a zoonotic viral disease, was to be shifted to a rehabilitation centre in Haryana’s Ban Santour.

“On July 3, we had got a confirmation from the Haryana forest department that Lakshmi could be moved there permanently. As per the court orders, the elephant was to be seized by the department after finding a suitable home for her,” the official said.

First Published: Jul 16, 2019 23:33 IST

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