In a tragic incident that somewhat can be blamed on careless authorities, an adult elephant died due to electrocution after coming in contact with live wire hanging low in the field in Chhattisgarh’s Gariaband district on Monday.
This is the third elephant death reported in the last six days in the state and eleven in the last four months.
“The incident took place in a field in Paragaon village under Dhawalpur forest range when a herd of 22 to 25 elephants was passing. In the early hours, one elephant came in contact with an 11 KV power transmission line, which was hanging at a low height above the field and died,” Arun Pandey, additional principal chief conservator of forests (APCCF) (wildlife) told Hindustan Times.
After being alerted about it, forest personnel rushed to the spot, and the autopsy was done, he said.
“In the past, no movement of elephants was reported in the area. This big herd of pachyderms ventured into the area from the adjoining Odisha border via Udanti Sitanadi Tiger Reserve,” Divisional Forest Officer, Gariaband division, Mayank Agrawal said.
Pandey further said that villagers had earlier complained to power department officials that high tension lines were lying at a low height in the area and the looming threat but no steps were taken by officials to insulate the wires so that they do not pose a threat to the elephants, nor did the authorities raise the power lines to sufficient height.
“Prima facie, it seems that negligence on part of the electricity department led to the death of the elephant. We will be filing a case in this connection and further action will be taken accordingly,” the official said.
Earlier, on Friday night, an elephant died of electrocution after coming in contact with a live wire laid by poachers to trap wild boar in Mahasamund district. Another jumbo died after it came in contact with an electric wire laid illegally at a farm by a cultivator in Raigarh district on September 23.
In June, six elephants died in four districts of the state. While the carcasses of two tuskers were recovered from the Pratappur forest range in Surajpur district, another elephant was found dead in the neighboring Balrampur district.
Two elephants were electrocuted in Dharamjaigarh under Raigarh district and a calf died after getting stuck in a marshland in Dhamtari district. One elephant died in July in Jashpur district of the state.
Following the fatalities, the state forest department in July issued orders to the divisional forest officer (DFO) of Dharamjaigarh in Raigarh district, where maximum elephants have been electrocuted in the last ten years, to take necessary steps to contain such incidents.
The order said the forest department should ensure that the 11 KV electric lines, which have caused the recent deaths, should be 7.5 meters above the ground-level and insulated electric wires be used in these areas.
The department has also directed the forest officers to coordinate with Chhattisgarh state power corporation to find out each and every illegal connection or live wire in these areas frequented by the elephants.
However, the recent death of tuskers is proof that the orders weren’t implemented with enough strictness. Both forest officials and the electricity department need to work in synchronization to recognize high-risk areas based on elephant travel routes and also nab poachers who pose a serious threat to wild animals.
In the last decade, the state has recorded an increase in its wildlife population including elephants, whose number rose from 225 to 290, as per the state forest department. North Chhattisgarh is home to around 240 wild elephants, which roam in plains of the state. To ensure that this number rises in the future, proper protective measures need to be chalked out and implemented.