Electrocuted Elephant in Sathyamangalam

N. Lakshminarayanan

N. Lakshminarayanan

Chosen as 'Picture of the Week'

Reserves in the Western Ghats and Eastern Ghats, spread across Karnataka, Kerala and Tamil Nadu are collectively known as “Asia’s elephant empire”, with a population of about 10,000 elephants. But this region is conflict-ridden too. In the past two years, over 30 elephants around protected areas in Karnataka have met a grisly end from electrocution. Farmers sometimes illegally electrify their fences with high voltage AC tapped from high-tension lines rather than install safe but expensive battery-operated electric fences.

This cow elephant was electrocuted on the periphery of Sathyamangalam Wildlife Sanctuary on December 21, 2011. The spot is just 15 m away from the forest boundary. It did not die inside a farm. It seems to have just been foraging through densely grown bushes on the side of a cart track abutting a turmeric field. A live wire was concealed inside the bushes and in the course of foraging, the animal seems to have stepped on it, thus getting electrocuted. I noticed burn marks in the lower jaw and the tip of its trunk.

This was not a case of crop raiding. There is a checkdam on a forest stream situated just outside the forest boundary and elephants reportedly use this checkdam extensively. The deceased animal drank from the checkdam (there were abundant signs) and was probably retiring back to the forest.

The accused was an old farmer, with marginal land holding. He surrendered before the forest department, which filed a Wildlife Offence Report (WLOR) and booked a case. The farmer was taken into judicial custody, remanded for about a week and then released on bail. As of the last update from the investigation (2 months ago), the forest department was yet to file a statement (similar to a chargesheet). The accused has been directed to appear in the Range Forest Office and sign papers while the investigation is ongoing.

Editor’s notes: Also see Electrocuted elephant in Bhadra

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