Pregnant elephant's death in Kerala: A timeline on how the events unfolded

Updated: 05 June, 2020 19:16 IST | mid-day online correspondent | Mumbai

The elephant consumed a pineapple filled with explosives, which exploded in the animal's mouth, leading to its death few days later

This picture has been used for representational purposes
This picture has been used for representational purposes

In a traumatic incident, a wild pregnant elephant in Kerala died after consuming firecrackers hidden inside a pineapple. The elephant succumbed to injuries she suffered after the firecrackers exploded inside her mouth. The death sparked a global outrage with people demanding justice and seeking severe punishment for the culprits responsible.

Prominent personalities, including Bollywood celebrities, businessmen and politicians expressed anger and shock over the death of the elephant. The investigations are underway as the Kerala Forest department has launched a 'manhunt' for those responsible for the death of the 15-year-old pregnant wild elephant

Here's a timeline of the incident so far

Elephant dies standing in lake

The elephant spent her last few hours standing in Velliyar river with her trunk and mouth underwater. The picture of the elephant standing in the lake  was posted on Facebook by Forest officer Mohan Krishnan who wrote in an emotional note, "When we saw her she was standing in the river, with her head dipped in the water. She had a sixth sense that she was going to die. She took the Jalasamadhi in the river in a standing position."

The pictures went viral on social media with netizens condeming the death. 

Krishnan who was deputed with the duty of getting the elephant out of the river said in the post that the elephant had injured her lower jaw after consuming the pineapple and was in pain, she was standing in the river to relieve herself from the pain. "First, we observed this animal on May 23 when we were informed by locals that an elephant was seen roaming around in the private area of the forest. When one of our staff members went to see the elephant, it was observed that she had suffered an injury in the the lower jaw area. Later, for at least 24 hours the animal was trying to look for water and on May 24 we received information that the animal has come into river Velliyar," Krishnan said on Facebook. 

elephantThe picture of the elephant that went viral. Picture/Mohan Krishnan-Facebook

A veterinarian was called to observe the behavior of the elephant. The animal was unable to eat because of the injuries she suffered. Before the team of forest officials could pull her out of the river, she collapsed and died of starvation. "Anyway, we had very little hope of reviving the animal because it had not been eating for days. Before we could pull her out of the stream, she had collapsed. We hope it was a peaceful death," the forest officer said.

The preliminary post-mortem report conducted at Mannarkkad Forest Division indicated the immediate cause of the death of the animal to be drowning followed by inhalation of water leading to lung failure. But the report also pointed out that the elephant had suffered incapacitating wounds in its oral cavity following an explosive blast in the mouth after which it took shelter in the Velliyar river. On June 2, reports of an elephant's death by 'being fed' cracker-laced pineapple surfaced in the media.

What did the investigations reveal?

After the incident was public, an FIR was lodged under the relevant sections of Wildlife Protection Act. Kerala forest minister K Raju said that the forest department appointed three teams to probe the matter, adding that police were also probing the incident as explosives were used. Preliminary investigations revealed that the elephant may have accidentally eaten the pineapple. The practice of placing cracker-laced fruits is termed illegal but is done by farmers to ward off animals from spoiling their produce.

Action by authorities

elephantAuthorities help pull out the body of the elephant. Picture/PTI

Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan assured on June 3 that strict action will be taken against those involved in the killing  and culprits will be brought to justice. "Forest department is probing the case and the culprits will be brought to book," Vijayan said.

On June 5, Kerala forest minister K Raju said that a person named was arrested in the case and more people might be involved.

Other reactions

Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar informed on June 4 that the Centre has taken a very serious note of the killing of an elephant in Kerala and also assured an investigation into the incident to nab the culprits. "This is not an Indian culture to feed fire crackers and kill," Javadekar tweeted.

Amid clarifications from the Kerala government that the incident happened in Palakkad and not in its neighbouring district Malappuram as earlier reported in the media, BJP leader and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi's reaction on the issue received severe backlash from the Congress. Gandhi was quoted by ANI as saying, "It is not an incident. It is a murder. A pregnant elephant was fed a pineapple filled with bomb that exploded its mouth. Malappuram is very famous for incidents like this. It is the most violent district in the whole of India," Maneka Gandhi told ANI. The quote by the former Women and Child Development minister was welcomed with Congress leaders demanding apology from her for 'tarnish the state's image'.

Vijayan responded to the BJP leader's claims on Twitter where he said, "We are saddened by the fact some have used this tragedy to unleash a hate campaign. Lies built upon inaccurate descriptions and half truths were employed to obliterate the truth."

Union Minister V Muraleedharan, who hails from the state, asserted that it was not the intention of anybody to malign the image of a particular place or district. "An elephant died. He was fed crackers stuffed in a food substance. But controversy has erupted in Kerala that some BJP leaders said that it happened in Malapuram. My point is that the controversy that is to be discussed is animal cruelty, and how we must take preventative and corrective steps further," Muraleedharan, the Minister of State for External Affairs said.

(With inputs from agencies)

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First Published: 05 June, 2020 16:02 IST

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