India vows probe after elephant killed with explosives

NEW DELHI (AFP) – India pledged to investigate yesterday the death of a pregnant elephant that ate explosives-filled fruit, as cricket and Bollywood stars joined a chorus of outrage over the incident.

The elephant died in agony last week in the southern state of Kerala, the latest casualty in a growing conflict in South Asia between large animals and humans as ever more forest is lost to urban expansion.

Footage of the animal standing in a river for hours with its badly injured mouth and trunk in the water as it slowly weakened went viral, triggering horror and even calls for the culprits to be executed.

India’s cricket captain Virat Kohli said on social media he was “appalled” while Bollywood megastar Akshay Kumar tweeted that the incident was “heartbreaking, inhumane and unacceptable”.

“Maybe animals are less wild and humans less human,” Kumar said, calling for “strict action” against the culprits.

Even Ratan Tata, chairman emeritus of Tata, one of India’s biggest conglomerates, chimed in, calling the killing “no different than acts of meditated murder against other humans… Justice needs to prevail.”

India’s environment and forest minister Prakash Javadekar promised action.

“Central Government has taken a very serious note of the killing of an elephant in Mallapuram, #Kerala,” Javadekar said on Twitter.

“We will not leave any stone unturned to investigate properly and nab the culprit(s). This is not an Indian culture to feed fire crackers and kill,” the minister added.

Policemen and onlookers stand on the banks of the Velliyar River in Palakkad district of Kerala state as a dead wild elephant is retrieved following injuries caused when locals fed the elephant a pineapple filled with firecrackers as it wandered into a village searching for food. PHOTO: AFP