A PIL has been filed in the Kerala High Court alleging that a sloth bear, which recently drowned in a well in Thiruvananthapuram district after being tranquilised, died due to negligence on the part of the forest officials involved in the attempts to rescue it.
The plea, moved by a charitable trust, has contended that the sloth bear, a rare species in India, was darted by a veterinarian without sanction of the Chief Wildlife Warden — as required under the law — and without following the protocols laid down for the same.
The trust, Walking Eye Foundation for Animal Advocacy, claimed that according to the standard operating protocols for such instances, the well ought to have been drained of water with the help of fire service personnel and after the bear was covered with the net, then only it should have been darted.
However, none of these steps were followed, the trust — represented by its Founder and Managing Trustee Vivek K Viswanath — claimed in its petition which is likely to be heard on Friday.
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The plea has sought administrative action and invoking of relevant provisions of the Indian Penal Code and the Wildlife Protection Act against several officials, including the Thiruvananthapuram DFO, Chief Wildlife Warden, Range Forest Officer and the veterinarian who darted the bear.
On April 20, in a tragic turn of events, the around 10-year-old sloth bear which had fallen into a well in a residential area at Vellanad in Thiruvananthapuram district died due to drowning after it was tranquilised. The rescue attempts took a tragic turn when the animal went under the water after being tranquilised and could not be reached due to the depth of the water despite the forest department officials and locals immediately entering the well.
A forest official had said that a net had been placed under the bear before it was tranquilised, but it could not contain the animal which slipped into the water and then went under the water after becoming unconscious. The calculations of the rescue personnel about the depth of water in the well went wrong as they could not reach the animal after it went under the water.
The animal was later fished out of the well after some water was pumped out, but it was too late by then. State Forest Minister A K Saseendran, in the wake of criticism of the alleged lapses in the rescue effort, had said it would be examined whether there was any failure on the part of the rescue personnel during the operation and if yes, appropriate action would be taken.
The petitioner trust, besides negligence on the part of the forest officials, also alleged that there was a several hours long delay in initiation of the rescue efforts.
It claimed that while the bear fell into the well at around 1.30 AM and the same was immediately communicated to forest authorities by the house owner, officials reached the spot at 5 AM. After the bear died, Thiruvananthapuram’s DFO had said that while the animal’s death was unfortunate, there was not any failure on the part of the rescue personnel.