The Kerala Forest Department on Wednesday arrested three people in connection with the death of a 10-year-old female elephant in Kollam district’s Pathanapuram area in April, IANS reported.

Unidentified forest officials told The News Minute that the elephant fell prey to a trap that was set up to catch a wild animal. Villagers in Kerala often use firecrackers or explosives stuffed in food to protect their fields from wild animals. This practice had been widely criticised.

Punalur Divisional Forest’s Officer said the accused had stuffed pineapple pieces with explosives that are meant for wild boars and deer. “But it happened that the elephant accidentally bit into it and injured itself.”

The elephant could not eat or drink anything after the injury. It then returned to the forest, where it died.

An unidentified forest official said a total of six people were arrested, but three of them were held for hunting wild animals. The official said they were not involved in placing the firecracker that led to the 10-year-old elephant’s death.

The three accused arrested in connection with the case have been identified as Renjith, Animon and Sharath. They are natives of Karavoor village and were produced at the Punnala Model Forest Station on Wednesday.

The Pathanapuram Range Officer said the six accused are hunters who kill wild boars, sambar deer and python for their meat and skin. The officials seized pineapples, bones that looked like those of wild animals from the accused. They also seized a rifle and some substances that are likely to be used to make country explosives.

The six people have been booked under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, for hunting, and the Kerala Forest Act, 1961, for trespassing.

An unidentified forest official told the news agency they had formed a special team including police and forest officials after the elephant’s death. “The special team first tracked the movement of this particular wild elephant and then was after a few people,” the official said. “Their movement and all other things were closely monitored and finally they were tracked down and their arrest was made.”

In another incident, on May 27, a pregnant elephant died in the Velliyar stream in Kerala’s Palakkad district. On Monday, the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said the elephant may have died after “accidentally eating a fruit” stuffed with firecrackers.

This came two days after an autopsy report revealed the elephant had major wounds in its oral cavity, which most likely occurred after an explosive went off in the mouth. The report added that the elephant was unable to eat for nearly two weeks before her death.

The incident has sparked outrage across the country and prompted a criminal investigation into cruelty towards animals.

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