An elephant in Kerala dies after suspicious firecrackers hidden in fruit exploded in her mouth

The elephant died on May 27 while standing in the middle of a river in the southern state of Kerala, four days after it was found injured, according to local forest official Ashique Ali.

“The post-mortem report says there was an explosion in the mouth. We haven’t caught any culprits. We don’t know yet what caused the explosion,” Ali said, adding that the animal was found in a one-month pregnancy.

Kerala’s chief wildlife manager, Surendra Kumar, said the case was being investigated.

He said local villagers sometimes left pineapples and other sweet fruits filled with firecrackers around their fields to repel wild boars, which could have caused an explosion in the elephant’s mouth.

“(The explosion) broke bones and caused great damage to the mouth. The animal could not eat and became weak. And then she died,” he said.

The elephant was found injured on May 23, but she backed away when forest officials and a veterinarian tried to immobilize him for treatment, Ali reports.

Two days later she was found standing in the river again. “In order to be treated, it must be immobilized, but we cannot use a tranquilizer while it is in the water, because then the animal can drown,” Ali said.

Two other elephants were brought to lead the damaged animal out of the water, but she refused to move and remained there until she died, Ali added.

The death of the elephant caused outrage across the country. Indian Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said on Thursday that the central government had “seriously recorded” the incident.

“We will not leave any stone untidy in order to properly investigate and attack the culprit. This is not an Indian culture for feeding fire crackers and killing,” he said at Twitter.
Conservatives estimate that India has about 27,000 wild elephants, but their habitat is under increasing pressure as human settlements encroach on nature reserves.
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