Pan-country alert to find missing elephant
A pan-nation alert was sounded to look for the city’s missing elephant Lakshmi more than a month after her caretaker allegedly fled with the mammal on July 6.
According to officials in Delhi government’s forest department, there has been no trace of the 59-year-old elephant so far and a letter was sent out last month to chief wildlife wardens of all states, alerting them to be on a lookout for the elephant.
“We recently wrote to all states with a specific description of the elephant. It was important to issue an alert so that the respective departments know that the animal has been taken away illegally and to ensure the caretaker does not get away,” a senior forest department officer said.
An alert had been sent to adjoining states right after the mammal went missing.
The department has also written to the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau (WCCB) to check for any trans-border movement.
“We have written to the bureau to keep a vigil in case of any trans-border movement. The elephant is sick and needs to be traced to be rehabilitated,” another officer said.
A senior WCCB official said, “We are aware of the case and are looking into the matter.”
Lakshmi 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. HT had first reported about the elephant being taken away, on July 17.
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 1, the Delhi forest department had received Haryana’s consent to accommodate the elephant.
However, a few days later on July 6, when a team of forest officials went to seize the elephant, they were allegedly roughed up by the caretaker, his mahout and associates.
She was last seen on the banks of the Yamuna near Shakarpur in East Delhi. The forest department had lodged an FIR in the matter, and the Delhi Police had registered a case and is probing Lakshmi’s disappearance.
Until six months ago, Delhi had seven elephants, of which five have been sent to Gujarat and Haryana by forest officials. One elephant, which belongs to a city businessman, was allowed to be kept in the city after a Delhi High Court order.
In 2016, the Delhi HC had asked the forest department to “seize” the seven elephants and rehabilitate them. The elephants had to be shifted out of Delhi because the city does not provide a natural habitat to house these animals.
According to forest officials, her caretaker Yusuf Ali, has served a jail term previously and has taken possession of the elephant despite court orders. Forest officials, despite a three-hour-long chase, could not nab Ali, who made the elephant cross the shallow waters of the Yamuna to a forested area and managed to flee with it, the FIR stated.
Meanwhile, the Delhi Police has appointed a senior investigating officer (IO) in the case.
“The elephant’s caretaker is still at large. A probe is on. We have issued a non-bailable warrant against him,” said a senior police officer.
On Sunday, when HT tried to reach Ali, his phone was answered by his son, who said he has not been able to contact his father since he went missing.
“My family has not been able to get in touch with my father since the forest department had come to seize Lakshmi in July. We suppose the elephant is with him. Ganesh Chaturthi is an auspicious occasion when elephants are worshipped, and several religious institutions have asked us about her,” said his son, who studies in class 12.