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India makes arrest over elephant explosives death

June 5, 2020

The pregnant elephant died after eating food that was filled with firecrackers in India's Kerala state. A video of the injured animal went viral, sparking outrage across India.

Indian elephant in Uttarkhand
Image: picture-alliance/imageBROKER

Authorities in India's southern Kerala state arrested a suspect over their alleged involvement in the death of a pregnant wild elephant that ate explosive-laden fruit, state officials said on Friday.

"One person was arrested today. There are more accused in the case and efforts are on to nab them," Kerala Forest Minister K Raju told reporters, according to the Times of India.

Earlier the Forest Ministry announced a "major breakthrough" in the case on said on Twitter

The elephant is believed to have eaten fruit or another edible substance that was packed with firecrackers after straying into a village in Palakkad district last month.

Read more: India opens a hospital for elephants

Injuries caused by blast

Images and videos of the elephant went viral on social media, showing the suffering animal submerging its injured mouth and trunk into the water to relieve the pain.

Kerala's chief wildlife warden Surendrakumar said that a preliminary post mortem report showed that the elephant suffered severe injuries in its mouth and was not able to eat for days.

The post mortem report found that the severe injuries in the elephant's mouth were most likely caused by an explosive blast, the India Today news website reported.

The elephant became weak from not eating, eventually collapsing and drowning in the river.

Read more: The sorry lives of India's captive elephants

'Inhumane and unacceptable'

The case sparked widespread outrage in India, with cricket stars, actors and politicians alike expressing horror over the animal's death.

Bollywood actor Akshay Kumar tweeted that the incident was "heartbreaking, inhumane and unacceptable" and called for "strict action" against those responsible.

State officials cautioned that the killing was likely not driven by cruelty but said they were still investigating.

"There is no evidence yet that someone deliberately gave a firecracker-laden pineapple to the elephant, but we are investigating," Kerala's wildlife warden Surendrakumar said.

Villagers in India, Sri Lanka and other areas of South Asia frequently use pineapples filled with explosives to protect their homes and fields from wild animals.

As more forest space is lost due to deforestation and urban expansion, conflicts between wild animals and people have been on the rise.

Over 2,300 people were killed in elephant attacks in India between 2014 and 2019, according to government data.

During that same time frame, 510 elephants were killed — including over 300 deaths due to electrocution, while 100 died due to poaching and poisoning.

rs/aw (dpa, AFP, Reuters)

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