‘Justice will prevail’: Kerala CM on elephant’s death
The incident came to light on May 27 when a forest officer wrote a Facebook post describing the elephant’s painful death.Updated: Jun 05, 2020 00:52 IST
Some people suspected to have fed a cracker-filled fruit that caused the death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala have been identified, chief minister Pinarayi Vijayan said on Thursday even as activists pointed out it was not the state’s first such killing and the Centre took “a serious note” of the incident.
“Justice will prevail,” Vijayan tweeted amid an outpouring of grief over visuals that showed the elephant dead in a river. “Many of you have reached out to us. We want to assure you that your concerns will not go in vain.”
The incident came to light on May 27 when a forest officer wrote a Facebook post describing the elephant’s painful death.
Union environment and forest minister promised to investigate the case properly. “Central Government has taken a very serious note of the killing of an elephant in Mallapuram, #Kerala. We will not leave any stone unturned to investigate properly and nab the culprit(s). This is not an Indian culture to feed fire crackers and kill,” he tweeted.
Kerala’s principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Surendra Kumar, said it was unlikely that someone will offer cracker-filled pineapple to a wild elephant. “It is possible that the animal ate the fruit by mistake. Cracker-laden fruits like pineapples are kept by farmers to scare away animals from their fields. Investigation is on to find whether the death was caused by pineapple or jiggery and samples are being tested,” he said.
Palakkad district forest officer K K Sunil Kumar said they have started their investigation and will question people living around forests in the area. “We have some leads,” he added without offering further details.
Another female elephant was killed in Kollam after it ate a cracker-filled fruit in April. In 2018, another jumbo was killed in Idukki after swallowing jaggery-coated explosives.
“In the Kollam case also, the dead jumbo’s mouth, tongue and a part of trunk were burnt. We usually call such snares as boar crackers as they are normally meant to target crop-raiding wild boars. At times, elephants and bears also fall prey to such snares,” said E K Eswaran, a former chief veterinary officer.
Kollam farmer K K Mathew said animals damage their farms and at times they use small crackers to scare them. “Some of them dodge electric fencing to attack farms. We have to fend for ourselves. So we resort to such tricks,” said Mathew.
John Peruvanthanam, an activist, said people often encroach upon forests and start cultivation there. “It is not like a border between two countries. It is natural for animals to stray into human habitats.”
The latest elephant death has put a spotlight on the human-animal conflict in the state. In 2018-19, 24 people were killed by wild elephants and 12 died in tiger attacks, according to the forest department statistics.
In 2015, the government proposed to provide licensed firearms to farmers to shoot down wild boars but the proposal was withdrawn after opposition from the forest department that argued they can be misused.
Kerala has the third highest population of elephants after Karnataka and Assam even as their numbers declined from 6,177 in 2012 to 5,706 in 2018 when the last census was held.