Jumbo Tragedy in Chhattisgarh: Was Another Pregnant Elephant Poisoned?


Jumbo Tragedy in Chhattisgarh: Was Another Pregnant Elephant Poisoned?

Illustration: Reynold Mascarenhas

In modern India, with a rising human population and shrinking natural landscapes, human-animal conflicts are a daily occurrence in many corners of the country. This long-standing issue received a wave of media attention a few days ago, when a pregnant elephant in Kerala ate explosive-laced bait meant for wild boars, and died in great suffering. Amid the sympathy, there were also those who reiterated that the episode in Kerala was not a one-off incident, and that such tragedies were dishearteningly common. Yesterday, the truth of this came to life, as another two elephants, including one who was pregnant, were found dead in Chhattisgarh.

The deaths of the two elephants is a tragedy. Their bodies were discovered in Chhattisgarh’s Surajpur Forest Division – the first on Tuesday and the second on Wednesday. The Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change confirmed the deaths on Twitter, directing the state’s Forest Department to take action on the issue.

However, there are conflicting reports on the cause of death of the two animals. There have been reports that the two elephants were poisoned after drinking from a local pond. “It seems that the only pond in the area was deliberately poisoned, and the elephants consumed that water and died due to poisoning,” a report in The Print quotes an anonymous forest official as saying.

However, the Divisional Forest Officer in Surajpur did not confirm the poisoning theory. He stated that while the probe was on, results of the post-mortem for the second elephant were still being awaited. He also stated that based on the results of the post-mortem conducted on the pregnant elephant, it appeared that she had been suffering from a type of liver infection.

While the reasons for the elephants’ death has not been confirmed to be human-animal conflict, the forests of Chhattisgarh are likely to witness more such incidents, as the central government has given clearance to large-scale mining projects in the state. These will invariably degrade the elephants’ natural habitat, forcing them into closer contact with humans. Sadly, Kerala and Chhattisgarh will not be the last time that India is collectively shocked by the death of wild animals.