The National Green Tribunal on Friday took suo motu cognisance of the death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala’s Palakkad city on May 27 and formed a committee, directing it to submit an action-taken report in the matter, PTI reported. The next hearing is scheduled for July 10, according to Live Law.

A bench of Justices K Ramakrishnan and Saibal Dasgupta also issued notices to the Ministry of Environment and Forests, the Kerala government and others. It sought their responses before July 10.

Referring to the joint committee, the bench said it was an appropriate step as it will help ascertain the real state of affairs, the steps to be taken to protect wildlife, and minimise man-animal conflict in the future.

The committee comprises a senior officer not below the rank of chief conservator of forest, deputed by the principal chief conservator of forest, wildlife. It also includes the chief wildlife warden in Kerala, senior officer from the Wildlife Crime Control Bureau, Southern Zone, wildlife warden of Silent Valley Division and the divisional forest officer of Mannarkkad and Punalur. The Palakkad district collector will also be part of the committee.

The tribunal said that the joint committee will submit a factual and action-taken report, including a long-term management plan to avoid such incidents in the future.

The elephant, estimated to be a 15-year-old, died in the Velliyar stream in Palakkad last month. Her wound was presumably caused by some explosives put in a fruit that she ate, which was set as a trap by local farmers against wild animals. The incident has sparked outrage across the country. Villagers in Kerala often use firecrackers or explosives stuffed in food to protect their fields from wild animals. The practice had been widely criticised.

“Probably these things are happening due to various aspects of not following the norms for protecting the wild animals in the forest, exposing them to have a conflict with human, thereby their lives were put to danger,” the green court said.

The tribunal took suo motu cognisance of the incident based on a news article in an English daily. “It is also seen from the newspaper [article] that some action has been taken by the Forest department and also from government level, including the central government,” it said. “But this case has been registered for the purpose of taking an effort to avoid such things in future and also for providing some long-term strategy to minimise man-animal conflict in wildlife area or fringe village adjoining the forest area.”

On Saturday, the autopsy report said that the elephant had major wounds in its oral cavity, which most likely occurred after an explosive went off in the mouth. It added that the elephant was unable to eat for over two weeks before her death. The immediate cause of death of the elephant in the report is stated to be inhalation of water leading to respiratory failure.

On Friday, the police in Kerala made the first arrest in connection with the death of the elephant. The arrested person has been identified as P Wilson, an employee at an estate cultivating cash crops and spices. Another person has been detained in the case. The two men told interrogators that they had placed fruits filled with firecrackers to scare wild boars, who often damaged farms.

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