Her jaws shattered by a firecracker explosion inside the mouth, a pregnant elephant stood with her trunk dipped in the Velarayi river in Kerala for two days before life ebbed agonisingly out of her. The horrifying death of an elephant, who bit on an explosives-laden pineapple kept in the fields to ward off wild boar, has sparked massive outrage in India, with many top politicians and celebrities taking to social media to express their shock over the tragedy.
The beginnings of the gruesome incident came to light on May 23, just outside the Silent Valley National Park, when forest officials spotted an elephant near a water source. The creature was obviously in distress and a veterinarian was called for.
His prognosis was grim: a two-week-old wound in the mouth, teeming with maggots and likely excruciating pain. The elephant died in sitting posture in the river on May 27, her mouth and trunk immersed in water, the only way she thought she could have relieved at least some of her pain.
“We are suspecting that the elephant fell prey to the explosive snare used to fend off wild boars. But there is no evidence now to suggest that it was intentionally fed such an explosive,” a forest officer was quoted as saying by The News Minute.
The autopsy revealed the immediate cause of death to be fluid in the lungs due to drowning and severe sepsis in the mouth. The elephant had not eaten in two weeks.
The death was reported first by a forest official on social media:
The Member or Parliament and vocal environmentalist Maneka Gandhi soon called out Kerala for inflicting routine atrocities on its pachyderms.
The country’s Union environment minister, Prakash Javadekar said this was ‘not Indian culture’ and assured strict action against the offenders.
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.@moefcc @PIB_India @PIBHindi
— Prakash Javadekar (@PrakashJavdekar) June 4, 2020
The Chief Minister of the state of Kerala was also quick to issue a statement:
An investigation is underway, focusing on three suspects. The police and forest departments will jointly investigate the incident. The district police chief and the district forest officer visited the site today. We will do everything possible to bring the culprits to justice.
— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) June 4, 2020
India’s cricket captain Virat Kohli, who commands a following of millions on social media, led the celebrity faction:
Appalled to hear about what happened in Kerala. Let's treat our animals with love and bring an end to these cowardly acts. pic.twitter.com/3oIVZASpag
— Virat Kohli (@imVkohli) June 3, 2020
Within a day of the incident coming to light over 1,000 petitions were filed on Change.org. The petitions garnered the support of over one million (10 lakh) people demanding strict action against the offenders.
— Sudarsan Pattnaik (@sudarsansand) June 4, 2020
The Humane Society International-India said the sad episode highlighted the need for crop insurance schemes that would safeguard the interest of communities, but not compromise on the welfare of animals.
As the incident snowballed into something of a national tragedy online, reports emerged of another incident, back in April, in which a young female elephant died in a similar manner in the Kerala’s Kollam district.
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