600 Elephants Killed Yearly in Kerala? Maneka’s Claim Defies Data
Where is the data Maneka Gandhi is using to make these claims?
Maneka Gandhi's claim that 'over 600 elephants are killed in Kerala every year' falls flat on the basis of information provided by ministers from her own party and government data over the years. Speaking to news agency ANI, the Bharatiya Janata Party (BJP) MP and animal rights activist also called Kerala's Malappuram "India's most violent district."
The death of a pregnant elephant in Kerala on 27 May sparked outrage on social media with citizens coming out to condemn the horrific act. Some politicians, too, came out to condemn the incident, among them, were Union Minister Prakash Javadekar and Maneka Gandhi.
In another call to action that she uploaded on Twitter, she repeated the same claim about 600 elephants being killed in Kerala.
600 Elephants Killed Every Year in Kerala?
First off, let’s look at this claim that Gandhi makes. Where is she getting this number from?
We found that in February 2019, Dr Mahesh Sharma, Minister of State in the Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change (MoEF), in response to a question in Lok Sabha said that data from 2015-2019 (up to 31 December 2018) shows that there have been a total of 373 elephant deaths in total across India.
According to the data he presented, in the four-year period mentioned, 226 of these deaths have occurred due to electrocution, 62 due to train accidents, 59 due to poaching and 26 due to poisoning.
When you look at the year-wise data, 2015-16 saw 104 elephant deaths, 2016-17 saw 89 deaths, while there were 105 and 75 deaths in 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively.
Further, data presented by Babul Supriyo, MoS (MoEF) in the Rajya Sabha on 10 February 2020, claimed that there had been 269 elephant deaths due to electrocution, 71 deaths due to train accidents, 61 due to poaching and 26 due to poisoning. This data is for the same time period, ie, 2015-19.
If looked at cumulatively, Supriyo’s data shows that 2015-16 saw 113 elephant deaths, 2016-17 saw 94 deaths, while there were 105 and 115 deaths in 2017-18 and 2018-19 respectively.
If the data presented by Supriyo and Dr Sharma is compared, there are some small mismatches visible, but not to a great extent.
This raises the question of how 600 elephant deaths could be possible in a year in Kerala alone if data from the Centre shows that the total number of deaths across India did not cross 150 in any year over the last four years.
Reports of Elephant Deaths in Kerala
Next, we delved into specific data about elephant deaths in Kerala in a year.
As per the state-wise data presented by Supriyo in the Rajya Sabha, for the period between 2015-2019, Kerala reported 39 elephant deaths due to various reasons including train accidents, poaching, and electrocution.
On the other hand, more number of elephant deaths were reported in the states like West Bengal, Assam, and Odisha.
The News Minute reported in June 2018, quoting data from the Society of Elephant Welfare, that 18 elephants had died in the first six months of the year. The same report said that there had been 26 elephant deaths in 2016 and 20 in 2017.
By now, it is clear that while Kerala does have a large number of elephant deaths, the numbers are nowhere near what Maneka Gandhi claims. So where is the data she is using to make these claims?
Incident Happened in Palakkad, Not Malappuram
Additionally, Gandhi got this fact completely wrong in her outrage against the incident, when she blamed Malappuram for allowing such a thing to happen and even called it the “most violent district” in the country.
But The Quint found that the incident actually took place in Kerala’s Palakkad district and not Malappuram.
"The elephant was found dead in a forest area in the Mannarkkad division of Palakkad district. Such incidents have happened in the past but we have taken all steps to prevent them," K Sunil Kumar, Divisional Forest Office, Mannarkkad, told The Quint.
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