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Following the tragic death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala, there has been a massive outrage across the country. While most of the outrage centred around animal cruelty, the incident gave rise to a number of false claims and quickly took a communal angle.
The pregnant wild elephant died in Kerala after she allegedly ate a snare of fruit filled with crackers. The elephant originally belonged to Silent Valley National Park (SVNP), Palakkad, remained calm despite being in excruciating pain.
Reportedly, she walked around in the village, in searing pain and hunger, unable to eat anything due to her injuries. The elephant eventually walked up to the Velliyar River and stood there.
She died at 4 pm on May 17, standing in the water, after hours of attempt by the officials to rescue her.
Soon after the incident gained national attention, BJP MP and animal rights activist Maneka Gandhi, on Wednesday, made a number of claims
Speaking to ANI, the BJP MP claimed that 'over 600 elephants are killed in Kerala every year.' She reiterated the same claim on Twitter as well, asking for action against animal cruelty.
Mallapuram is know for its intense criminal activity specially with regards to animals. No action has ever been taken against a single poacher or wildlife killer so they keep doing it.— Maneka Sanjay Gandhi (@Manekagandhibjp) June 3, 2020
I can only suggest that you call/email and ask for action pic.twitter.com/ii09qmb7xW
She also claimed that the elephant died in Malappuram district in Kerala. She used this claim to target Muslims, who form a majority in the district.
1. Over 600 elephants are killed in Kerala every year.
2. The pregnant elephant was killed in Malappuram.
The claims are false.
While Gandhi claimed that 'over 600 elephants are killed in Kerala every year,' the claim contradicts the government's own response in the Lok Sabha.
In response to a question in Lok Sabha in February 2019, Dr Mahesh Sharma, MoS, Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF) said that as per data collected between 2015-2019 (up to 31 December 2018), there have been a total of 373 elephant deaths.
The data from the four-year period said that 104 elephants died in 2015-16, 89 died in 2016-17, 105 in 2017-18, and 75 in 2018-19. Meanwhile, 226 of these deaths occurred due to electrocution, 62 due to train accidents, 59 due to poaching and 26 due to poisoning.
On February 10, 2020, Babul Supriyo, MoS (MoEF) presented data in the Rajya Sabha which states that between 2015 and 2019, 269 elephants died due to electrocution, 71 died due to train accidents, 61 due to poaching and 26 due to poisoning.
The data also shows that 113 elephants died in 2015-16, 94 died in 2016-17, 105 in 2017-18, and 115 in 2018-19.
Both the data shared by Supriyo and Sharma are roughly the same. The data from the centre shows that not once the number of elephant deaths across the country crossed 115 mark in the last four years.
Gandhi's claim of 600 elephant deaths in a year in Kerala alone, therefore, falls flat.
Furthermore, as per the state-wise data given by Supriyo, Kerala reported 39 elephant deaths between 2015-2019. Meanwhile, states like West Bengal, Assam, and Odisha, reported more deaths than Kerala.
Even as Gandhi claimed that the elephant died in Malappuram, the incident actually happened in Palakkad district of the state.
Shylaja Verma, the author of the report, also took to Twitter to clarify the same.
On the Kerala elephant story, we regret getting the name of the district wrong in the first version of the story. It was corrected as soon as it was brought to our notice.— Shylaja Varma (@ShylajaVarma) June 4, 2020
In a tweet, Kerala CM Pinarayi Vijayan also said that the incident happened in Palakkad.
In a tragic incident in Palakkad dist, a pregnant elephant has lost its life. Many of you have reached out to us. We want to assure you that your concerns will not go in vain. Justice will prevail.— Pinarayi Vijayan (@vijayanpinarayi) June 4, 2020
Kerala Forest Minister K Raju also clarified the same.
Strict action will be taken against culprits responsible for killing a pregnant elephant. I want to clarify that it happened in Palakkad not in Malappuram. Regarding, the remark of Maneka Gandhi, I don't want to comment at this juncture: K Raju, Kerala Forest Minister (file pic) pic.twitter.com/1gnctPzhGO— ANI (@ANI) June 3, 2020
Therefore, Maneka Gandhi's claims that the pregnant elephant died in Kerala's Malappuram and that over 600 elephants are killed yearly in the state are false.
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