Vinayaki’s Murder Conspiracy – A 15-year-old pregnant elephant name Vinayaki of Silent Valley National Park (SVNP) died passively in a river. It had been traumatized for weeks because of a searing wound. The incident occurred in Palakkad, Kerala at 4 PM on May 27. Investigators later opined that the elephant likely got into the river to ease the pain from the wound. They also identified the cause of the fatal injury to be a disguised country firecracker.
This shameful occurrence–a loss of two innocent intertwined lives in open view-has struck a deep low chord. Many are criticizing the Wildlife Protection Act.
Female teenage elephants typically stay with their herds. This one was aged about 15 and it’s easy to see why it got separated from its herd. According to the investigation, it ate a firecracker stuffed fruit dummy between March 13 and March 24. Such traps are used in fringe areas to fend off wild boars despite being illegal. Following this incident, Dr. P.S. Easa, a renowned wildlife expert, has demanded tough action against explosive trap setters in forest fringe areas. “It’s illegal and cannot be tolerated,” he says. “It could be aimed at people too.” The injury to the elephant’s jaw likely led to its separation from its group.
Wild elephants are mighty dangerous creatures. Their agitation often leads to incidents of a stampede, and at least one report suggests they’re getting drunk on rice beer. Therefore, it is a considerable fact that the injured pachyderm was not rampant, wreaked no havoc, and was passive.
The elephant was first spotted on May 24; the injury was then not apparent. The elephant was covered with blood and must have been so since the explosion: That raises the question, why didn’t the spotter inform the authority? Why this lack of action? After being spotted, the forest authority allowed the elephant to run wild. It searched several days for someplace to pacify itself and to cool its wound.
It finally found calm in the river Velliyar. Now, forest officers believe it must have stopped there to relieve itself of the pain. There, people took pictures of it, and it was fairly well documented. The authority took no action between its spotting and the deploying of two Kumki elephants on May 24.
The elephant reportedly charged after they brought two Kumki elephants to persuade it to move. ‘Kumki’ elephants are elephants trained to claim obedience from wild elephants. It collapsed on the river. The dead, shrunken body of the elephant was then pulled out.
Dr. David Abraham, an Assistant Forest Veterinary Officer, reported after the post-mortem of the elephant: Both jaws were injured, the (injured) area was filled with maggots, the elephant could not eat or drink for a week and was very weak.
This is treated as an unnatural death, and so, a post-mortem was conducted.
The responsible are likely to be tried according to India’s Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, which was issued to further the cause of protecting all wild organisms, not just animals. As per the Act, wild elephants fall in Schedule 1 under protected species. Any offense under this schedule can be punished with a penalty of 7 years’ imprisonment and 25,000 rupees in fines.
Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan posted on Facebook and Twitter,
“In a tragic incident in Palakkad district, a pregnant elephant has lost its life. Many of you have reached out to us. We want to assure you that your concerns will not go in vain. Justice will prevail. An investigation is underway, focusing on three suspects. We are saddened by the fact some have used this tragedy to unleash a hate campaign. Lies built upon inaccurate descriptions and half-truths were employed to obliterate the truth. Some even tried to import bigotry into the narrative. Wrong priorities.”
As the CM pointed out, the authorities will take action. Likewise, Palakkad Superintendent of Police, G. Siva Vikram has announced that one person, P. Wilson, a worker at a rubber plantation in the district, has been arrested for his involvement in the elephant’s death. Vikram added that more arrests would be made after further inquiry.
The question still stands: is it enough? Can this ever be the price of an elephant’s life, that too a pregnant one? How are these punishments to compensate for the emotional response that has stirred up?
Tales of the heinous act have reached respected people and they all have very strong emotional reactions:
Ratan Tata, the former Tata Sons chairman, has compared the elephant’s death to meditated murder. The image posted by him symbolizes the innocence of the enceinte elephant.
Forest Officer Mohan Krishnan said that
the elephant was “full of goodness,” referring to the pachyderm’s extraordinary passivity. “Even as the entire mankind stands helpless before a virus like a coronavirus, I have only one thing to say-sorry.”
We, humans, are hypocritical at many levels. Though we react to this with a furor, we will revert to our daily lives sooner than we know. Sometimes, we may lock eyes with a dog staring at us from outside the restaurant window. And then, even if we have a moment–a spark of humanity–very few of us even think to offer it food.
Both we and they have got used to this. So-called ‘animal rights activism’ has turned this genuine issue into a niche. Every human needs to know the limits in treating animals, docile, or wild. We may not afford them as luxurious pets, but we can afford to feed them once in a while. We should never abuse them.
Such a mammoth event should teach us micro-level lessons to alter ourselves so that such shameful incidents never happen again. We all know the fact that elephants remember; so how can we forget the sacrifice of this intertwined duo?