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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Mercy killing of ailing Corbett Reserve elephant ruled out

Vivek Pandey, chief conservator of forests (CCF) Kumaon, said that there would be no mercy killing of the ailing elephant

dehradun Updated: Jul 26, 2019 15:45 IST
Neeraj Santoshi
Neeraj Santoshi
Hindustan Times, Nainital
The 55-year-old elephant Lakshmi has been suffering from severe foot infection and age-related ailments for over four months at Aamdanda area of Corbett.
The 55-year-old elephant Lakshmi has been suffering from severe foot infection and age-related ailments for over four months at Aamdanda area of Corbett. (HT Photo )
         

The Uttarakhand forest department has decided against euthanasia or mercy killing of the ailing elephant at Corbett Tiger Reserve whose condition has been critical over the last few days, forest officials said.

The 55-year-old elephant Lakshmi has been suffering from severe foot infection and age-related ailments for over four months at Aamdanda area of Corbett. A panel was announced in June to shift the tusker to Elephant Care Centre at Mathura for better treatment. Mercy killing was also one of the topics of discussion. But the elephant was not shifted to Mathura.

BP Pant, Kosi range officer said the health of Lakshmi has become critical over the last three days and it can hardly stand or move. “Her infected feet and other body parts have been covered so that her infection doesn’t worsen. She is being fed liquid food and some fruits. But her condition is worsening despite our best efforts,” he said.

However, Vivek Pandey, chief conservator of forests (CCF) Kumaon, said that there would be no mercy killing of the ailing elephant. “We will try our best till its last breath to ensure it gets proper treatment. After the team from Mathura had treated it for 10 days, Lakshmi’s condition had improved. But with the monsoons, its condition has worsened. Now we are feeding her glucose water. We wanted to shift her to Mathura, but their team refused to do so given its fragile condition,” he said.

In May, the state forest department had written a letter to the Uttar Pradesh forest department seeking permission for shifting Lakshmi to Elephant Care Centre at Mathura. Later in the same month, a team from Mathura arrived in Corbett to check Lakshmi’s medical condition and made some recommendations regarding its treatment. But its shifting to Mathura didn’t materialise.

In June, the principal chief conservator of forest (PCCF) announced the formation of a panel to look into the possibility of euthanasia for Lakshmi as its condition was deteriorating. In 2007, state forest officials had agreed on mercy killing of an elephant in Rajaji Tiger Reserve, but it died a natural death before the process of euthanasia started.

In April 2018, Madras high court had also agreed to mercy killing of a temple elephant if the veterinarian concerned certified that it would be cruel to keep the animal alive. The court there also noted that “The Prevention of Cruelty to Animals Act, 1950 allows government officials concerned to euthanize a mortally injured, captive animal.”

Deepanjan Naha, project scientist at Wildlife Institute Of India (WII), said that the lifespan of elephants is generally around 75. “In this case, it is obvious that Lakshmi is old and there are fewer chances of her recovery. In such a scenario, it would be best to end her pain and suffering through mercy killing.”

Ritesh Joshi, a scientist at Conservation and Survey Division at ministry of environment and forests and author of ‘Secret Life of Elephants’ said that it was sad that an elephant was suffering like that. “Before its capture, it had lived a sedentary life as it was used for joyrides. Given her condition, she should be extended the best possible treatment to ease its pain at this stage,” he said.

Parag Madhukar Dhakate, chief conservator of forests (CCF) western circle Kumaon said the department will not go for the mercy killing of the ailing elephant. “Lakshmi is a part of our family.We will take care of her like we do in case of our elderly family members,” he said.

Who is Lakshmi?

Lakshmi is one of the eight elephants seized by the state forest department last year following the high court directions. For the first time in August last year, the forest department seized elephants from private individuals in the state. While hearing a public interest litigation regarding encroachments around Corbett tiger reserve, HC on August 3, had directed the state forest department to take possession of the elephants with private individuals here.

Accordingly, eight elephants were seized from around the Corbett Tiger Reserve in Ramnagar and Almora district. Forest officials claim that ever since Lakshmi has fallen sick, they have been trying their best to get it properly treated. They pointed out that for its treatment, experts were called from Agra, WII Dehradun, Indian Veterinary Research Institute (IVRI) Izatnagar, Bareilly and Mathura.

In April, the forest officials had even sought services of South Africa’s noted veterinarian Dr Kobus Rath to treat the elephant.

First Published: Jul 26, 2019 15:45 IST