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'Pushed and pressed against the wall': 16-year-old Iskcon elephant kills mahout

Samudra was pushed and pressed against a wall by Bishnupriya, the 16-year-old female elephant, said Iskcon and forest department officials

Sanjay Mandal, Debraj Mitra Calcutta Published 08.04.24, 06:00 AM

Bishnupriya. Sourced by the Telegraph.

An elephant kept in an enclosure at Iskcon in Nadia’s Mayapur killed a mahout on Saturday evening.

Another mahout, who was sitting on the elephant, fractured his leg as he jumped to the ground to try and save 27-year-old Samudra Rava.


Samudra was pushed and pressed against a wall by Bishnupriya, the 16-year-old female elephant, said Iskcon and forest department officials. Mayapur is around 140km north of Calcutta.

Samudra, who hailed from Kamrup in Assam, was the mahout of Lakshmipriya, a 30-year-old female elephant in the enclosure. Ajay Rabha, the mahout of Bishnupriya, was injured while trying to save Samudra.

“Samudra was apparently feeding Lakshmipriya. When he came near Bishnupriya, she pushed him with her head and pressed him against the wall. Ajay jumped off Bishnupriya’s back and tried to save Samudra,” said Radharaman Das, vice-president of Iskcon, Calcutta.

Samudra was taken to a local hospital where doctors pronounced him dead, Das said. The body has been sent for post-mortem.

Iskcon officials said they had sought help from the forest and animal resources development department to ascertain the reason for Bishnupriya’s violent behaviour.

“A veterinary officer from the department has come to evaluate her and is trying to find out the cause of the behaviour. She did not attack Ajay, who suffered a fracture in the leg because of the fall,” said Das.

Forest department officials said the elephant’s violent behaviour could be a result of hormonal changes.

The enclosure where the two elephants are kept is within the 750-acre compound of Iskcon and about 500 metres from the main temple, an official said.

“The two elephants are used for ritual purposes,” Das said.

The divisional forest officer of Nadia, Utpal Nag, confirmed the death.

Forest department officials visited the enclosure on Sunday.

Sources said Bishnupriya was calm and quiet on Sunday afternoon and was given sedatives mixed with bananas by the Isckon management.

Another mahout, brought from Assam on an emergency basis, had in the afternoon expressed his inability to handle Bishnupriya who was roaming inside the enclosure. However, late on Sunday evening, he managed to chain the elephant, a forest department official said.

The Iskcon management requested the forest department to use tranquillisers.

“Usually, the forest department uses tranquillisers on wild animals and not those in captivity,” said a forest official.

“Male captive elephants are known to be aggressive towards people during musth, a period of heightened testosterone production. But irrespective of musth status and sex, captive elephants are known to become aggressive towards their handlers when they are under acute stress or suffering from physical ailments. The reasons are mostly inadequate care and upkeep,” said Aritra Kshettry, national lead for elephant conservation at WWF-India.

Debal Ray, chief wildlife warden of Bengal, told The Telegraph: “It is a female elephant, so being aggressive in musth is out of the question. The animal needs examination. If there is a genuine need for tranquillisation, it will be done. From what I know, the elephant is relatively calm now.”

A forest official, who requested anonymity, said: “In India, only Kerala has clearly stated rules towards this (Kerala Captive Elephants [Management & Maintenance] Rules).”

No other state, nor any central guidelines, addresses the issue of captive elephant welfare, he said. “However, the state chief wildlife warden can issue orders towards the better upkeep of captive elephants under Section 64 of the Wildlife Protection Act.”

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