Amid the outpouring of rage and grief for the pregnant elephant that died after eating a cracker-filled fruit, Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan has promised "strict action" against the people responsible. "The Forest Department is probing the case and the culprits will be brought to book," he was quoted as saying by news agency ANI.
Pineapples and other fruits, filled with crackers are usually left around by farmers to protect their crops from wild boars. But officials suspect that tracing the culprit may not be easy, since wild elephants walk several kilometers a day.
Under the Wildlife Protection Act, capturing, trapping, poisoning or baiting of any wild animal or even attempting to do so carry a fine of upto ₹25,000 or a jail term of upto seven years, or both.
Chief Wildlife Warden Surendra Kumar said a high-level team is investigating the incident and arrests will follow soon. "The department is of the view that this is an intentional act to kill the elephant. We have registered the case against unknown offenders and very soon you will hear of the arrests," Mr Kumar told NDTV
The forest officer who first posted the matter on Facebook, said the elephant, with her insides ripped, tongue and mouth injured, had wandered around for days before walking into the Velliyar river in Palakkad district, where she died in a standing position.
Health officials who conducted the postmortem, said going by the weight the elephant lost, she could have been wandering for around 20 days before she died.
"She didn't harm a single human being even when she ran in searing pain in the streets of the village. She didn't crush a single home. This is why I said, she is full of goodness," read the Malayalam post of forest officer Mohan Krishnan, who was part of the Rapid Response Team to rescue the elephant.
"She trusted everyone. When the pineapple she ate exploded, she must have been shocked not thinking about herself, but about the child she was going to give birth to in 18 to 20 months," the emotional post.
"This is deeply saddening. As a guardian of wildlife animals through out Kerala, it's very saddening for me... I hope people will be more sensitive - after all most consider human beings superior," Mr Kumar added.
Forest officials say they suspect that the pregnant elephant had come of out the Silent Valley in search of food and wandered into one of the surrounding villages.
Now another case that appears similar has been found. In April, a female elephant died in the forests in Kollam district. It is yet to be confirmed whether she died after eating crackers. Her jaw was fractured, indicating that crackers could have been the reason. The officials are now waiting for the results of a chemical test.