‘More arrests soon’: Kerala minister after 1 held in elephant’s death case
Union environment minister Prakash Javedkar had announced another probe by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, which has also begun its investigation.Updated: Jun 06, 2020, 07:23 IST
A man was arrested and two others were detained for questioning on Friday by the joint investigation team of the police and forest departments in connection with the brutal killing of a pregnant elephant in Kerala’s Palakkad, the state’s forest minister K Raju said.
The arrested man was identified as P Wilson, an employee of an estate that cultivates cash crops and spices on the fringe areas of the Silent Valley National Park.
Wilson reportedly told the probe team that he used to make explosive-laden snares to check crop-raiding wild boars. He said he made the latest snare after he was asked by two others, who have been identified.
“More arrests will take place soon,” the forest minister said.
Union environment minister Prakash Javedkar had announced another probe by the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, which has also begun its investigation.
The death of the 15-year-old elephant came to light on May 27 when a forest officer, Mohan Krishnan, wrote a Facebook post after witnessing its painful death in a river.
Initial reports suggested that the elephant died after eating a pineapple stuffed with crackers but the latest post-mortem report said it was a coconut and that her wounds were two-week-old. By the time the elephant died, all that remained of her body was a skeleton.
The 15-year-old elephant reportedly rushed to the nearby Velliyar River in the Silent Valley rain forests after eating the cracker-filled fruit and stood there for many days with its trunk and head immersed in the water perhaps to nurse its wounds.
Forest officials rushed to save the jumbo after local people alerted them but it succumbed to its injuries on May 27 and during the autopsy, it was found to be pregnant.
Locals later said the jumbo was around the river for more than a week.
War of words
The incident took a political colour later after many BJP leaders, including Maneka Gandhi, said Malappuram is the most violent district in the country.
Though the incident took place in Palakkad many inadvertently named the Muslim-majority Malappuram and some even dragged Congress leader Rahul Gandhi alleging that it took place in Wayanad, his Lok Sabha constituency in north Kerala.
“It is sad some people are venting their anger without verifying where exactly it took place. It exposes their communal intention,” PK Kunhalikuty, the Muslim League MP who represents Malappuram, said.
Kunhalikuty said it was a big insult to the people of his constituency.
CPI(M) state secretary Kodiyeri Balakrishnan also condemned “the move to communalise an unfortunate incident.”
Upset with a particular district being targeted, many film artists including Tovino Thomas, Ashiq Abu and others began an online campaign “#I stand with Malappuram” which was supported by many.
Many posters came up in Malappuram condemning sweeping comments without verifying facts.
After the incident triggered countrywide protests, many wildlife activists said this was not the first death of its sort.
Another female elephant was killed in Kollam in south Kerala in April after it ate cracker-filled watermelon and two years ago another jumbo was killed in Idukki after swallowing jaggery-coated explosives, they said.
They said in such cases it is difficult to pinpoint offenders as the animals travel 100-200km a day in search of food and water and added that most of the cases remain unnatural death only on paper.
The shocking incident has revived the debate on the growing man-animal conflict in the state which has a 29.1% forest cover.
In 2018-19, 24 people were killed by wild elephants and 12 died in tiger attacks and 9400 man-animal conflict incidents were reported, according to the latest forest statistics.
Kerala, which is home to many wildlife parks and reserves, has 5,706 elephants, according to the 2019 census. The state has 720 domesticated jumbos and a majority of them are owned by temples.
The Guruvayur Sree Krishna temple has the highest number of captive jumbos at 59.
Elephants are adored in Kerala and many captive animals carry names. Caparisoned elephants are an integral part of all festivals and big gatherings in the state.
Hundred-odd elephants take part in the annual festival of ‘Thrissur Pooram’, Kerala’s biggest cultural festival, along with an ensemble of percussion instrument players.