Indian police on Friday arrested a man accused of causing the death of a 15-year-old pregnant elephant who ate a pineapple filled with firecrackers that exploded inside her mouth.
The suspect claims the “bait bomb” was intended as a snare to catch wild boars, which apparently destroy farms in the area, authorities told local news outlets.
The May 27 killing in the southern state of Kerala has sparked outrage across India, with animals-rights activists, politicians and Bollywood actors calling for justice in the case.
Humane Society International said the elephant “suffered catastrophic facial injuries and a slow, painful death.”
“Regrettably in India, human conflict with wild animals such as wild boars and elephants is a common problem, and often these animals can be maimed or killed by local communities experiencing crop damage and other issues,” Sumanth Bindumadhav, a wildlife campaign manager for the organization’s Indian division, said in a statement this week.
“We don’t yet know if the firecracker-pineapple was maliciously fed to the elephant, or if it was a tragic accident, but whether the intended victim was a boar or an elephant, tragic incidents like this demonstrate the urgent need for better and humane ways to manage wildlife,” the statement reads.
After chewing the fruit, the elephant rushed to a nearby river and died there before forest officials were able to rescue her, according to the Hindustan Times.
Police told the paper that more arrests are possible as they continue to investigate the case.