Kerala state Forest Minister said that a man has been arrested for his alleged involvement in the death of a pregnant elephant. After massive outrage sparked by the case, this is the first arrest. The arrest comes a day after Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said that three suspects had been identified.
“The arrested man is a rubber tapper. A search is on for others,” Palakkad district police chief G Siva Vikram Said.
One arrested for alleged role in pregnant elephant ’s death in Kerala
According to Chief Wildlife Warden Surendra Kumar, the man, allegedly handled explosives and also assisted others. The man named Wilson, who is in his forties, carries out farming in areas around Ambalappara. Efforts are underway to nab the remaining persons.
It all happened last month when the wild elephant wandered into a village near Silent Valley National Park in Palakkad. It was in the village the elephant had eaten something which was stuffed with firecrackers. The firecracker exploded in the elephant’s mouth and it walked around the village for days. Finally on May 27 it went into a river and died.
More than 250 personnel from the state’s forest department are searching through private estates on the forest fringes in Palakkad and Malappuram districts, in order to get some clues on the death of the pregnant elephant. The forest department’s combing team comprises personnel from Silent Valley, Mannarkad, Palakkad and Nilambur divisions under whose jurisdictions forests in the two districts mostly fall, sources said.
“The injury was already a few days old when we saw the elephant for the first time. So we have not been able to pin-point the place where the injury was sustained. That’s the limitation we are facing,” K K Sunil Kumar, divisional forest officer, Mannarkkad, had earlier said.
The animal may have suffered the injury for around 20 days and had starved since, officials guessed.
Villagers in the region often use firecrackers or explosives stuffed in food like fruits or animal fat in order to protect their fields from wild animals like boar. The horrific practice has been widely condemned.
Photos shared on social media showed the elephant standing in the river with her mouth and trunk in water, perhaps for some relief from what can only be imagined as excruciating pain.
“Justice will prevail,” Pinarayi Vijayan promised in tweets yesterday, responding to the tide of anger and grief after visuals of the elephant, dead in a river, emerged in a forest officer’s post earlier this week.
Mr Vijayan said his government’s investigation would also try to address the increased instances of human-wildlife conflict. “Climate change could be adversely affecting both the local communities and animals,” he tweeted.