Video Editor: Kunal Mehra
The news of a pregnant elephant that died in Kerala, on 27 May, after she ate a fruit that was stuffed with explosives, allegedly left by some locals, drew criticism and shock from people across the country.
While the news has created a lot of furore, rumour mills have been working overtime spreading misinformation.
The Quint's WebQoof team has categorically debunked several fake news stories to present only the truth to you.
Fact Check 1: Did Elephant Die in Malappuram, the Only Muslim Majority District in Kerala?
K Sunil Kumar, Divisional Forest Office, Mannarkkad, confirmed that the elephant died in the Mannarkkad division of Palakkad district. The forest is near the border Palakkad shares with Malappuram which is the only connection with the latter.
Mohan Krishnan, part of the Rapid Response Team from Malappuram, had posted this news on Facebook which brought it to the limelight. Many said this could have also led to the confusion.
Union Minister Prakash Javadekar and BJP MP Maneka Gandhi too got this wrong.
Central Government has taken a very serious note of the killing of an elephant in Mallapuram, #Kerala. 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.@moefcc @PIB_India @PIBHindi— Prakash Javadekar (@PrakashJavdekar) June 4, 2020
Strangely Gandhi even went on to blame Congress leader Rahul Gandhi, who is MP from Wayanad, which is at a different location.
Fact Check 2 : Maneka Gandhi’s Claim That 600 Elephants Are Killed Yearly in Kerala Defies Data
In an interview with ANI, BJP leader and animal activist Maneka Gandhi claimed that ‘over 600 elephants are killed in Kerala every year.’
Let us analyse the official numbers.
In February 2019, Dr Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change said that data from 2015 - 2018 shows that there have been a total of 373 elephant deaths across India, of which 226 of these deaths have occurred due to electrocution, 62 due to train accidents, 59 due to poaching and 26 due to poisoning.
The figures presented by Babul Supriyo, MoS (MoEF) in February 2020, stated that there had been 269 elephant deaths during this same period. Though both their figures are slightly variying, it is clear that even the official All India figures are less than Maneka's claims about Kerala.
Fact Check 3: Elephant Was Not Fed a Pineapple Stuffed With Firecrackers
Mannarkkad Divisional Forest Officer K Sunil Kumar clarified that there is no confirmation that the animal had consumed a pineapple, as dictated by media reports.
He said that the locals could not have fed a fruit stuffed with live firecrackers to a wild elephant inside the forest as that would be very dangerous.
However this was an act done by some people living in the forest fringes to keep the animals away from their cultivated land, and the officials said that harming any animal for any reason was highly condemned.
Kerala Forest Minister K Raju on Friday assured that the forest department has appointed three teams for investigation and the police is also investigating the matter.
Fact Check 4 : Is Malappuram the 'Most Violent District' in the Country, as Alleged by Maneka Gandhi ?
BJP MP Maneka Gandhi not only wrongly attributed the incident to Malappuram, she also accuse it of being the ‘most violent district’ in the country. However, these claims aren’t factually correct.
NCRB data for 2018 shows that, Malappuram isn't the most crime prone district in India. In fact, on many violent crimes like murder and unintentional homicide, Sultanpur, which is represented by Maneka Gandhi, fares much worse than Malappuram.
Fact Check 5: Many on Social Media Communalised the Incident and Abused the Muslim Community
Tweets by verified accounts on Twitter, including Amar Prasad Reddy, media advisor to Union Minister of State for Health and Family Welfare, Supreme Court advocate Prashant Patel and journalist Deepak Chaurasia named two Muslim men - Amzath Ali and Thamim Shaikh, as those arrested in the case.
As per the information made available to The Quint at 5:30 pm, Palakkad SP G Siva Vikram told that only a man named Wilson had been arrested. Responding to the social media posts about the arrest of two individuals - Mohammad Amzath Ali and Thamim Shaikh - he had called it ‘fake news.’
The Quint reached out to Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and Chief Wildlife Warden, Surendrakumar and the Palakkad SP's office who confirmed that one Wilson has been arrested and two others, Karim and Riyaz, who are said to to be the owners of the estate, are absconding.
However, it is shameful to give a communal colour to such a tragic incident. It diverts from the main issue of human expansion into habitat of animals.
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