New Delhi: Days after the death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala grabbed nationwide attention, two more elephants — one of them pregnant — are suspected to have died due to poisoning in Pratappur range, Ganeshpur village, Surajpur forest division in Chhattisgarh, ThePrint has learnt.
According to senior officials in the Chhattisgarh forest department, while the pregnant elephant died Tuesday, and her post-mortem has already been conducted, the other elephant died Wednesday.
“It appears that both the elephants belonged to the same herd, and were killed due to poisoning, but nothing can be said till the post-mortem reports come out,” an official said on the condition of anonymity.
“It seems that the only pond in the area was deliberately poisoned, and the elephants consumed that water and died due to poisoning,” the official added.
Arun Pandey, assistant principal chief conservator of forests, confirmed the deaths, but said the reasons can only be ascertained in a few hours.
Not one-off cases
The deaths of the two elephants come close on the heels of the death of a pregnant elephant in Palakkad in Kerala, who died a painful death after she ate a cracker-filled pineapple.
The incident triggered outrage from several sections of society, with celebrities and politicians, including cricketer Virat Kohli, industrialist Ratan Tata and BJP MP and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi, expressing shock and indignation.
While it was earlier reported that the elephant was deliberately fed the pineapple packed with crackers, the environment ministry later said that the elephant ate the fruit accidentally, and that it was actually meant for wild boars, who have been declared “vermin” in the state.
However, animal rights activist Gauri Maulekhi said: “The point is that these incidents are not one-off cases. That is why so much attention on one case like in Kerala can be counter-productive.
“Snaring of animals, using bomb-baits and poison-baits, and declaring them vermin is an inherently cruel practice, which is rampant across India. You will invariably have elephants and tigers die if you are killing wild boars and nilgais by calling them vermin…One cannot protect wildlife selectively,” Maulekhi said.
“The ecological balance is a delicate one. By allowing or incentivising hunting of one species, the Pandora’s box of wildlife slaughter is opened,” she added.
Environment ministry data corroborated Maulekhi’s claim that the reported cases are not aberrations. Between 2014-15 and 2018-19, 510 elephants and 2,361 humans were killed due to human-elephant conflicts. Several elephants die each year due to electrocution, train accidents, poaching and poisoning.
“These cases are just being highlighted now,” said an Indian Forest Service (IFS) officer on the condition of anonymity. “All of them boil down to one thing — man-animal conflict.”
“As we keep destroying their habitats, elephants will invariably move to agricultural landscapes,” the officer said. “Elephants die by coming under trains, through poisoning, by falling into potholes, wires, etc…It just does not get attention.”