(Eds: Combines related stories) Thiruvananthapuram/Kochi, June 3 (PTI) The Kerala government on Wednesday said a wildlife crime investigation team will probe the brutal killing of a pregnant wild elephant last month in a forest area in Palakkad district even as the Centre took a serious note of it and sought a report from the state.
The elephant had consumed a pineapple filled with powerful fire crackers which exploded in the animal's mouth in the Silent Valley Forest and died about a week later.
As the incident triggered an outrage, Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan said a preliminary investigation has been launched into the death of the elephant in Mannarkad Forest division in Palakkad district and the police directed to take stringent action against those responsible for the act.
A wildlife crime investigation team from Kozhikode has been dispatched to the place of the incident for further investigation, he told reporters in Thiruvananthapuram.
Meanwhile, taking a serious note of the incident, Union Environment Minister Prakash Javadekar said the Centre has sought a complete report and assured stern action will be taken against the culprits involved, a report from Kochi said.
'We have sought a complete report on the incident. Stern action will be taken against the culprits,' he told PTI when contacted.
The elephant died at Velliyar River on May 27 after efforts by forest personnel to bring it to the river bank using two other trained elephants failed. The post-mortem revealed that the pachyderm was pregnant.
Her jaw was broken and she was unable to eat after she chewed the pineapple and it exploded in her mouth.
Voicing concern over the incident, Bollywood celebrities including Anushka Sharma, Shraddha Kapoor, Randeep Hooda demanded strict action against animal cruelty.
Amid the widespread condemnation over the death, a top forest officer told PTI that another female elephant had met with similar fate in April in Pathanapuram forest range area under Punalur division in Kollam district.
'It was very weak. When the forest officials approached, the elephant ran into the forest and joined the herd of elephants waiting there. But the next day, the elephant was again found alienated from its herd. Proper treatment was given but unfortunately it succumbed to its wounds,' he said.
Another official said an investigation has been launched into the incident.
'It is suspected that the elephant bit a food item filled with crackers and it exploded in her mouth. We are waiting for the postmortem report,' the officer, who did not wish to be identified, said.
Such practices are allgedly resorted to by farmers in forest fringe areas to keep wild animals from damaging their crops besides preventing them from entering into their habitats, forest officials said.
The issue of the pachyderm's tragic death in Silent Valley came to light after Mohan Krishnan, a forest officer, posted an emotional note on his Facebook page, narrating the death of the elephant in the waters of the Velliyar River.
'When we saw her she was standing in the river, with her head dipped in the water. She had a sixth sense that she was going to die. She took the Jalasamadhi in the river in a standing position,' Krishnan, who was deputed to bring the elephant back to the shore, wrote.
He had also posted the photos of the elephant standing in the river water. PTI TGB UD VS VS