In my humble opinion,
over-eating is an indulgence that is exclusively practiced by
gastronomes belonging to the human race. But when it comes to animals in
the wild, nature and instinct ensures that they eat only the amount that
is required for survival. So when the cause of death of the wild
elephant that was found dead last week in the forests of Bijnore
district, was attributed to over-eating, one tended to reach out for the
proverbial pinch of salt.
As the veterinary experts
who examined the body of the elephant would have us believe, a perfectly
healthy 35 year-old wild tusker suddenly decided to go on an eating
spree and ended up dead, entangling all his intestines in the process.
The presence of tusks in the carcass, and the lack of any external
injury on its body, must have acted as the obvious factors that guided
the post-mortem report to discard the hand of the poacher in the death
of this elephant. But the logical question that follows is whether the
post-mortem examination categorically ruled out the not-so-obvious
poisoning as one of the other possible causes?
From an official
standpoint, it is understandable that conceding another success to
poachers at a time when the Corbett authorities are reeling under the
impact of negative publicity, is an entirely avoidable issue. But it
should not be forgotten that in the light of the state government’s
drive for transparency, conservation NGO’s and interested members of the
public would now tend to show increased desire to be informed of details
of hitherto unquestioned departmental activities like disposal of
carcasses of poached animals, and details of their post-mortem reports.
It would therefore be advisable for the wildlife authorities to conduct
these activities with a holistic approach so that if logical and
pertinent questions are raised, they may be answered with candidness and
It may be recalled that
the death of a tiger in Pilibhit early this year, and its subsequent
post mortem report, had kicked up a lot of controversy about the cause
of death. Whereas the official version established it as septicaemia, it
was hotly argued by others on the grounds that it was actually a bullet
that had injured the tiger in the upper neck region. Being unable to
lick itself at the point of injury, it was inevitable that the wound
turned gangrenous, and the tiger died of septicemia. However, the
official version stood strong since the IVRI veterinarians who conducted
the autopsy clearly ruled out a bullet injury.
A similar debate also
arose in Bandhavgarh national park last year, where the post mortem
report on a tiger found dead, certified that it had died of over-eating.
What prompted the debate was the fact that the tiger had vomited soon
after taking a second meal from a kill it had made earlier. These
circumstances certainly did not rule out the possibility of poachers
having laced the kill with poison. But in that case too, the cause of
death that prevailed, was over-eating.
There is no denying the
fact that the controversies that are raised in such cases are sometimes
the handiwork of disgruntled locals who have an axe to grind against the
concerned park management. They also manage to garner the support of
local media, which lends credence to the doubts they raise. The only way
these doubts can be set at rest is for the authorities to bring in
transparency in the conduct of post mortems, especially in cases where
the hand of the poacher can even remotely be suspected. Such cases
should be examined in the presence of a few knowledgeable members of the
public and the media. Once this practice is established, it would
greatly help to stop the canards from flying – hopefully from both
But the question that
nags, and still remains unanswered, is whether wild animals die of
over-eating. And if they do, what sudden physiological impulse overrides
their strong natural instinct of equilibrium?