The Mannarkkad Forest Division in Palakkad has registered an FIR (first information report) in the death of the 15-year-old pregnant elephant. The elephant died on May 27, says after it tried to eat a fruit stuffed with explosives.
While the elephant died on May 27, the Forest Department registered an FIR the next day, on May 28, against unidentified persons.
“Based on the nature of its wound, we are assuming that it died due to explosives. We are suspecting that the elephant fell prey to the explosive snare used to fend off wild boars,” KK Sunil Kumar, Mannarkkad Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), told TNM. Using snares to trap, wound or kill an animal is a cruel practice, and even an attempt is punishable under the Wildlife Protection Act.
“In forest ranges, normally, to prevent wild animals from invading or entering cultivated areas, people use two-feet-high fences laden with explosives to catch wild boars. Sometimes, its thorny edges poke its body when it comes near, and due to its body’s pressure, the crackers strategically tied to these fences might explode. There is another illegal practice where it eats fruits with poison or such bombs. In such a scenario, the wild boar is killed for its meat. There is no evidence now to suggest that the elephant was intentionally fed such an explosive. In fact, we are also investigating if it bit a fruit laden with explosives or directly bit these snares,” said Sunil, adding, “In this case, it is possible the elephant was injured due to these explosives.”
Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden Surendrakumar told TNM that the injuries showed that the elephant was injured due to an explosive. “This much we can say for sure now. Who was behind it and what happened, we are investigating,” he said.
The one-month pregnant elephant, according to some officers, could have belonged to the Silent Valley National Park in Palakkad. The elephant’s wound was one-week-old, which means it was injured before May 27, said the DFO.
“A few days before its death, sometime on May 20 or 23, some villagers in the forest range had spotted it in an area, which is about 10 to 12 kms away from the river where it died. It was not wounded near the river area, but at an area around 10 kms away. As per our estimate, those areas are not inhabited. Since we do not know at this point from where the elephant was injured, we have not been able to identify the culprits, but we are still carrying out the investigation,” said Sunil.
(The officer clarified to TNM on June 4 that the injured elephant was spotted on May 23 near a village called Ambalappara in Palakkad. On May 27, it was found by a team lead by the Forest Department in the Velliyar river in Palakkad. This is near the Palakkad- Malappuram border)
Mohan Krishnan, a member of the Rapid Response team who had written about this heartwrenching incident also noted that despite being injured for days, the elephant never attacked any human settlements. "Even with that agonising pain, she did not destroy any houses or injure any person. She was a good animal," he wrote.
The Forest Department has registered the FIR under section 9 (prohibition of hunting any wild animal specified in Schedules I, II, III and IV) and section 51 (offence committed in relation to any animal specified in Schedule I or Part II of Schedule II or meat of any such animal or animal article, trophy or uncured trophy derived from such animal or offence related to hunting in a sanctuary or a National Park) of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972. Wild elephants are protected species under Schedule 1 of the Act.