Chennai: A few decades ago, forest bandit Veerappan wreaked havoc with the wild elephants in southern states, particularly Tamil Nadu. Now man-made electric fences are killing approximately four times more of these majestic creatures than those that poachers’ weapons fell.
In an RTI petition, the wildlife officials replied that in between 2010 and May 2015 six elephants were killed by the poachers and 22 elephants died due to electrical fences around private plantations. A total of1,113 wild elephants died of all causes in the state reported the officials, as published in economic times.
There are many agriculture farms close to the forest areas. NowDindigul, Theni, Srivilliputhur, Kanyakumari, Pollachi, Coimbatore, Erode, The Nilgiris, Gudalur, Krishnagiri and Dharmapuri have electrified fences with high voltage AC power around, which is the direct cause of death.
The provision of punishment for such offences is very severe, but the farm owners get off with minimum punishment, said the officials.
In the past 15 years many areas close to forests have slowly turned into agricultural fields, on these swathes of land they cultivate cash crops such as sugarcane, cardamom and other spices and bananas. So to protect the crops from wild animals, jumbos in particular, the land owners arranged the electric fences…
According to the guide lines, only 12 volts of current can pass through such fences, but in many cases farm owners draw power from lines meant for domestic consumption and use it for the fencing, the forester said. When elephants die, the farm owners say all they are doing is protecting their crops. But there are many other ways such as using metal railing, a particularly effective and safe way to keep the animals away.
When the forest officials send a notice to the electricity board regarding the elephant electrocution case, there was no reply to the notices, the forest official claimed. The officials also said that “actually there are many cases pertaining to wildlife deaths due to electrocution are still in the trial stage”.
Tamil Nadu Green Movement joint secretary S Jayachandran said special teams should check illegal electric fencing.”Both the forest department and electricity board field teams can jointly patrol farmland to check if the rules are being followed,” he said
Wildlife officials say the government should increase the penalty for such offences and ensure that those who break the rules get severe punishment within a short time.
Palani Hills Conservation Council treasurer N Arun Sankar squarely blames both forest an electricity board officials for wild elephant deaths. “Most farmland owners, on the pretext of erecting solar panels, use domestic power to electrify fences,” he said. “In most cases such violations go unchecked till the death of an animal”.