‘Film City elephant died due to bile duct stones’

mumbai Updated: Oct 23, 2016 00:41 IST
Badri Chatterjee
Badri Chatterjee
Hindustan Times
Borivli,Goregaon,Bombay Veterinary College
Veterinarians said that the stones in the elephant’s bile duct were the size of tennis balls while the stones in the liver were one-and-half inch in size.(HT photo)

A day after a female elephant died at Film City, Goregaon, veterinarians said that the cause of its death was multiple bile duct stones that led to liver failure. A forest offence report (FOR) has been filed against the elephant’s owner claimed forest officials.

On Friday afternoon, 38-year-old Roopa was brought from her owner’s house in Borivli to Goregaon for a photo shoot. HT had reported that the elephant’s owner, Saba Shankar Pandey, had said that after eating some sugarcane, Roopa was in discomfort and had developed swellings on her body. Around 3pm, she collapsed outside the Film City gate and died soon after.

A post-mortem was conducted on Saturday morning by pathologists from Bombay Veterinary College and veterinarians from Sanjay Gandhi National Park (SGNP) at Kora Kendra at Naigaon, Vasai. While the results are awaited in a couple of days from Saturday, the elephant’s body was buried at Vasai.

“Prima facie, the cause of death seems to be multiple bile duct and hepatic (liver) stones leading to liver failure and toxemia – a condition where the liver is not able to filter and eliminate the toxins in the blood. Tissue samples have been taken for further analysis. The final anatomical diagnosis and PM report will be available by next week,” said Dr Shailesh Pethe, veterinarian, SGNP.

He added that the stones in the elephant’s bile duct were the size of tennis balls while the stones in the liver were one-and-half inch in size.

On Friday, however, Pandey had told HT that a medical examination done on Roopa a month ago had stated that she was medically fit.

Meanwhile, city forest officials said that the FOR was filed as a preliminary report and investigations are yet to be conducted. “We have not arrested anyone yet as there is no evidence that Roopa’s death was due to negligence. Butthe fact that the owner did not have a resident veterinarian along with him needs to be investigated,” said Santosh Kank, range forest officer, Mumbai. “The FOR has been filed so that the owner does not leave the city. After the post mortem report is out, further investigation will be carried out.”

Elephants are listed under schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972.

City-based animal activists demanded a high-level investigation in the matter. Members from PAWS (Plant & Animals Welfare Society) alleged that Pandey had used elephants in the past for begging purposes at Dahisar, Borivali and various parts of the state. “In 2013, a letter from forest officials from Bihar requested Thane forest officers to cancel ownership certificates for all elephants owned by Pandey. The forest department needs to also check whether the owner took permission from the Animal Welfare Board of India under their ‘performing animals’ rule,” said Sunish Subramanian Kunju, secretary, PAWS Mumbai.

Meanwhile, the elephant owner told HT that he did not care about the allegations against him. “I have no elephants left with me and now I am not even allowed to go back to my village. I don’t care what activists have to say but I will assist the forest department for any information that they need from me,” he said.

In 2013, a 58-year-old overweight elephant Bijlee died in Mumbai after she was overworked. Veterinarians from Bombay Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals said she was ill-treated by her owner and made to survive on junk food.

Activists speak

“While the elephant owner had an ownership certificate, he did not have a performing certificate from the Animal Welfare Board of India (AWBI) but the elephant was being used for commercial purposes, in this case the photo shoot. Also, even though the owner claimed that elephant was recently deemed fit, he did not have the latest fitness certificate,” said Pawan Sharma, president, Resqink Association for Wildlife Welfare (RAWW).

India for Animals Conference in Mumbai

As 38-year-old Elephant Roopa’s post-mortem was being conducted at Vasai on Saturday, the Federation of Indian Animal Protection Organisations (FIAPO) flagged off their fourth edition of India for Animals conference 2016 in Mumbai with over 400 animal activists and organisations.

While a number of awards were presented to activists for contributions towards animal protection, conservation and awareness were key issues discussed. “Against the common belief, animal protection involves more than dog and cat rescues. It is a bigger bucket that involves every aspect of an animal’s well-being from how they are kept in farms to their last moments in the slaughterhouse,” said Varda Mehrotra, director, FIAPO.

First Published: Oct 23, 2016 00:41 IST