Sickness and infection owing to lack of water took their toll

Despite the efforts made by the forest department to improve protection for the elephants, the Sathyamangalam forests lost seven jumbos in the last two weeks. One of them, aged about 22 years, died due to electrocution in Siddhankuttai on Tuesday.

Though a majority of the elephants died due to natural causes, it highlighted the extent to which the health of elephants was affected due to severe drought.

“We generally witness more elephant deaths during the period of January-May. But this time, the numbers are high. The severe drought, which reduced the availability of food and water sources in the forests, is one of the major reasons for the increasing number of elephant deaths,” an official here said.

The severe drought had affected the health of the elephants. Almost all the waterholes in forest areas dried up following the monsoon failure and the elephants, like most of the wild animals, had very little water to drink.

The sickness and infections due to lack of water led to more elephant deaths, environmentalists pointed out.

The drought had also led to a sharp increase in the human-elephant conflicts in Sathyamangalam region this year.

More than 10 persons were killed by the elephants during the last six months and a female elephant was electrocuted while raiding crops in a field.

Conservator of Forests A. Venkatesh said the elephant mortality in the region was under the acceptable levels. “It is not alarming. The mortality is very well under the limit,” he said.

“Except one elephant, all others died due to natural causes. We did not witness any poaching or other unnatural events in the recent past,” District Forest Officer K. Rajkumar said.

The forest department had taken up measures to create more waterholes and improve the vegetation. “We are taking up all necessary steps to keep the elephants healthy,” Mr. Venkatesh said.

The Sathyamangalam jungles is one of the country’s most important elephant habitats with a very healthy population. According to the census data from the department, the forests are home to at least 1,000 elephants.