A man was killed after being attacked by an elephant at the Veermata Jijamata Prani Sangrahalay, better known as Byculla zoo, when he entered her enclosure on Sunday afternoon. The man was taken to the nearby JJ hospital, where he was declared dead.
“A probe indicates there was no negligence by the zoo authorities. The man went inside the enclosure, after which the incident occurred,” said T Ghodge, senior inspector, Byculla police station.
“He not only climbed a wall to enter the enclosure, but also opened its gate, provoking Laxmi, the 55-year-old elephant,” said zoo superintendent and veterinarian Dr Sanjay Tripathi.
According to policepersons who guard the enclosure, the incident occurred around 1.20pm. “Mobin, the mahout, had locked the elephants Anarkali, who is 46, and Laxmi in their quarters before going for his lunch break. All of a sudden we heard commotion and rushed out,” said a mahout. “We don’t know how the man provoked Laxmi, who has never attacked anyone in the past.”
“Mobin tried to control Laxmi, who had attacked the man savagely,” said a policeman who witnessed the incident. “The man was probably a drug addict.”
The enclosure shares a high wall with a playground. Several slums border the zoo. The man, yet to be identified, could have been from the area, the policeman said. “The man tried to climb back to escape, but Laxmi attacked him with her trunk and injured him grievously.” Only after the elephant was brought under control by the mahout did a few policepersons enter the enclosure to take the bleeding man to hospital.
The zoo veterinarian gave the elephant a clean chit. “Both Laxmi and Anarkali, 46, are docile and good-tempered. Laxmi was undoubtedly provoked,” he said.
The incident occurred despite security around animal enclosures being enhanced after a rhinoceros killed a zoo visitor a few years ago. The moat around the elephant enclosure was widened and deepened, the height of the wall increased and barricades installed.
Once again, questions are being raised about security at the zoo. The zoo sees over 20,000 visitors on Sundays, but has just 65 policepersons for security. “There are 18 policepersons per shift — hardly enough to man the crowd,” said a police officer.
But the incident did not affect the flow of visitors, perhaps because the news did not spread. “I did not know about the elephant attack,” said Aftab Quereshi, a Byculla resident who had come to the zoo with his wife and four-year-old son. “The moat and the security arrangements around the enclosure seem adequate.”