'Cracker' killing of elephant in Kerala: Amid national outrage, Centre seeks report

Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said a preliminary investigation has been launched

Image source: Facebook / Mohan Krishnan Image source: Facebook / Mohan Krishnan

The Kerala government on Wednesday said a wildlife crime investigation team will probe the brutal killing of a pregnant wild elephant last month in a forest area in Palakkad district even as the Centre took a serious note of it and sought a report from the state.

The elephant had consumed a pineapple filled with powerful fire crackers which exploded in the animal's mouth in the Silent Valley Forest and died about a week later. The elephant died at Velliyar River on May 27 after efforts by forest personnel to bring it to the river bank using two other trained elephants failed. The post-mortem revealed that the pachyderm was pregnant. Her jaw was broken and she was unable to eat after she chewed the pineapple and it exploded in her mouth.

As the incident triggered an outrage, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said a preliminary investigation has been launched into the death of the elephant in Mannarkad Forest division in Palakkad district and the police directed to take stringent action against those responsible for the act.

Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the Centre has sought a complete report and assured stern action will be taken against the culprits involved. 

Though an investigation has been launched into the incident, it is suspected that the elephant died by accident as such practices are common among farmers in forest fringe areas to keep wild animals from damaging their crops, besides preventing them from entering into their habitats.

The issue of the pachyderm's tragic death had come to light after Mohan Krishnan, a forest officer, posted an emotional note on his Facebook page, narrating the death of the elephant in the waters of the Velliyar River. "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," Krishnan, who was deputed to bring the elephant back to the shore, wrote.

National outrage

Industrialist Ratan Tata on Wednesday compared the killing to a "meditated murder", and sought justice for the animal. "I am grieved and shocked to know that a group of people caused the death of an innocent, passive, pregnant elephant by feeding it a pineapple filled with firecrackers," Tata, chairman emeritus of the over $100 billion Tata Sons, tweeted.

Bollywood celebrities including Anushka Sharma, Shraddha Kapoor, Randeep Hooda demanded strict action against animal cruelty. 

Tagging a news report of the brutal incident, Anushka wrote, "This is why we need harsher LAWS against animal cruelty!!"

"How? How can something like this happen? Do people not have hearts? My heart has shattered and broken... The perpetrators need to be punished in the STRICTEST way. @PetaIndia @CMOKerala," Shraddha wrote on Twitter. Sharing a petition by PETA India, the actor further said, "We need stricter laws against animal cruelty. It's HIGH time. Please sign this petition."

John Abraham shared a news report on Instagram and captioned it: "Shame on us. Ashamed to be human. " 

Randeep Hooda asked the concerned authorities to take appropriate action. "An act most #inhumane to will fully feed a pineapple full of fire crackers to friendly wild pregnant #Elephant is just unacceptable...strict action should be taken against the culprits sir," Randeep wrote.

-Inputs from PTI