Mumbai's last privately owned elephant, Laxmi, no more

Updated: Jan 26, 2018, 21:16 IST | A Correspondent

The pachyderm, who died in her 80s, was allegedly used earlier to beg; owner claims he couldn't take her out for exercise because of Forest Dept's restrictions, which could be why she fell sick

Pawan Pande and his family claimed they had looked after Laxmi for over 50 years
Pawan Pande and his family claimed they had looked after Laxmi for over 50 years

An elephant allegedly used to beg in the past in Mumbai, Thane and Navi Mumbai, died in the wee hours of Thursday. mid-day had done a story (Elephant found begging at Dahisar; forest officials say they can't find it!) in August 2016, about one such elephant, which might have been this one. It was allegedly being forced to beg on the streets, though this is banned in the city. The Forest Department had issued a circular in 2013 telling citizens there is a ban on such exploitation of elephants within city limits.

'Owned for over 50 years'
The cow, Laxmi, which died, was said to be around 80-85 years old, and Pawan Pande and his family claimed they had looked after her for over 50 years. Pande told mid-day that she had stopped eating for the past four to five days and doctors had been informed about the same. He claimed the elephant died of old age around 6-7 am at Dahisar. Pande said, "The allegations against us that we were using the elephant for begging are baseless. We have been taking proper care of the elephant as she was with us for more than 50 years. An elephant is an animal that requires continuous exercise in terms of walking, but because of the Forest Department circular, we were unable to take her out for walks which might be one of the reasons why she fell sick."

The elephant Paroo, also owned by Pande, which died at Film City in 2016.
The elephant Paroo, also owned by Pande, which died at Film City in 2016.

'Ownership not cancelled' Secretary of NGO PAWS, Nisha Kunju said, "The elephant, which was the last captive elephant in Mumbai, would have survived for many more years if the Bihar government had cancelled the ownership licence of Pande. In the year 2013, The Thane Forest Department (Territorial) had written to the Bihar government to cancel the ownership of the elephant. The owner had been using the elephant for begging, which is in violation of orders." As the elephant had been brought from Bihar, the Maharashtra Forest Department could not seize her.

Sources from the Forest Department told this newspaper that the postmortem of the elephant will be done today by veterinarians from Sanjay Gandhi National Park, including Dr Shailesh Pethe, after which the body will be disposed off.

Honorary Wildlife Warden of Thane, Pawan Sharma said, "Pande is a notorious owner of two elephants, one of which, a 38-year-old cow named Paroo, died in the month of October 2016 in Film City where she was taken for a shoot, due to medical negligence. He made the most of the loopholes in our systems and repeatedly violated the protocols exploiting both his captive elephants. With the death of the last privately owned elephant in the city, we will keep a strict vigil if any other elephant owner tries to enter the city for commercial and devotional purposes."

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