India arrests man over shocking death of pregnant elephant

People pull the pregnant elephant out of the water, photo: Reuters
People pull the pregnant elephant out of the water, photo: Reuters

Indian police have arrested a plantation worker and are hunting two others for killing a pregnant elephant. She died after she ate fruit laced with explosives in the southern state of Kerala.

Footage of the animal standing in a river for hours with her severly injured mouth and trunk in the water as she slowly weakened went viral, triggering horror and even calls for the culprits to be executed.

The man was arrested on Friday after he allegedly placed fruits filled with explosives to keep animals, mainly wild boars, away from his rubber plantation. It’s believed the pregnant elephant was hungry and ate the explosive fruit lying around.

Police said the man made several coconut-bombs in the second week of May and left them near the plantation boundary. They’re still looking for two of his associates. If convicted, they could face up to seven years in jail for killing an elephant, a protected animal under Indian wildlife laws.

Officials said it was unclear when the 15-year-old elephant consumed the rigged fruit, but she was found injured on May 25, two days before she died. They said the explosion caused severe damage to her mouth, leaving the animal unable to eat or drink for days.

Using fruits with firecrackers is a common practice
Villagers across India often use explosive or firecracker-filled fruits, which act like pressure-activated landmines, as bait to target wild animals that threaten crops and homes.

A similar incident was reported last month in a nearby Kerala district when another female elephant was found with serious mouth injuries. It’s not clear if she survived.

It’s a cruel practice that badly pains any animal and leads to a slow and painful death, Meet Ashar from People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals (PETA) India said.

Wild boars declared vermin in Kerala
According to Ashar, the government of Kerala declared wild boars as vermin last month, which means that people can kill the animals if they form a threat to their crops.

That’s where the problem lies, Ashar says, if you allow people to kill wild animals themselves, you can’t control the way they’ll do it, people will continue to use bait with poison in it or explosives. For any animal, boar, elephant or deer, that’s a horrible way of dying.

Ashar says it’s not only in Kerala where this happens. The government of Himachal Pradesh has declared monkey as vermin. He finds it unbelievable that citizens have been permitted to kill animals: “If you’re going to allow people to take the law in their hands and kill animals like this, you don’t have the control over the way they kill them.”

Killing is not the solution
“Killing is no solution, why would you want to kill animals, that’s not the way. The Wildlife Protection Act in 1972 came out to stop the killing of animals, and now you’re promoting the killing of animals,” Ashar says about the authorities in Kerala and Himachal Pradesh.

There are other ways, he says, to protect farms from animals, like fencing or loud noise. The monkeys in Himachal Pradesh don’t have to be killed, they could live at a sanctuary. He gives the example of Delhi, where monkeys were successfully brought to sanctuaries. That’s how the capital solved its ‘monkey problem’.

The governments of Kerala and Himachal Pradesh should look into different solutions than allowing their citizens to kill animals. That’s not the solution for man-animal issues, he says, unless they don’t scrap these policies, incidents with animals eating bait bombs will continue to happen.

Watch the interview The Animal Reader had with Meet Ashar of PETA India about the pregnant elephant that was killed and the monkeys that are declared as vermin in Himachal Pradesh.

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