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Forest officials on Tuesday arrested Kulathingal Shaji (48) who owns as many as five resorts in Wayanad–for gunning down a 13-year-old female elephant at Nalam Mileon the side of the Sultan Bathery Pulpally road on May 30. Forest authorities said that a six member gang, led by Shaji, killed the elephant. “Shaji fired at the elephant using an illegal gun. This happened after the forest department blocked an illegal road to his resort at Mudikkode. Also the forest department had in the past denied him an NOC for opening a resort at Vadakkanad,” said WWS warden P Dhanesh Kumar.
According to forest officials, the gang led by Shaji camped inside the forest on May 29 to hunt the elephant. “They spotted the elephant just 6m away from the road and Shaji stepped out of the vehicle and fired at close range killing it on the spot,” said a forest department official.
Though the district collector had constituted a joint team of police and forest officers to nab the accused, the probe could not make much headway as there were no evidence at the crime scene. A lead bullet from a country-made gun was recovered from the left side of the carcass during autopsy . The body of the elephant was found in a kneeling position, beside the road.
The probe team got a breakthrough on October 4 when forest officials nabbed Chundattu Baby, who was a member of the killer gang, while he was brewing illicit liquor inside the forest. On interrogation, he admitted that he was in possession of the gun that was used for killing the elephant. He said that Shaji had killed the elephant using the gun. Forest officials then raided a house at Vadakkanad earlier this month and recovered the country-made gun used for the crime, along with bullets, and horns of a deer.