A moving social media post by forest department section officer Mohana Krishnana, who was part of the rapid response team that attempted to rescue an injured elephant who died standing in Kerala’s Velliyar river last week, underlines how brutally her trust in humans had been betrayed and how she did not try to hurt them in retaliation even when an excruciating pain tore through her, and instead willed herself and her unborn child into a watery grace.
It appears that when hunger drove her to forage for food outside the forest she fed on a pineapple that had been stuffed with firecrackers. As they exploded in her mouth, she sought comfort in the river waters, keeping her trunk under them till she died. An autopsy revealed that she was pregnant.
As her story has spread and outrage grown across the country, one defence that has emerged is that the elephant had not been fed the explosive pineapple deliberately, but accidentally fallen victim to a snare that had been laid out for wild boars and pigs. That this is considered a defence illustrates the scale of the problem. Because no matter how pressing the human conflicts with animals are, it is indefensible to address them by means of gratuitous torture.
Surely there could not be a more grave reminder than the Covid crisis engulfing the world today, that we cannot keep destroying wildlife habitats with impunity. But even if we stopped doing this right away, in different parts of the country elephants, wild boars, leopards, tigers etc are already in uncomfortable proximity to human habitations. There are several non-lethal means of protecting human lives or even crops in these situations. But where it becomes necessary to put down an animal, what is the point of using such weapons as a pineapple stuffed with firecrackers? Not only must those who killed the elephant by such cruel means be punished, state government must ensure that no one else continues such practices.