Metal tentacles protect jumbos from toxic waste

A low-cost solution to keep elephants away from the garbage yard proves to be a hit.

July 04, 2016 12:00 am | Updated October 18, 2016 03:05 pm IST - COIMBATORE:

Protecting pachyderms:Niligiris Collector P.Sankar inspecting the solar fence installed at the garbage dumpyard in Gudalur. — Photo: Special Arrangement

Protecting pachyderms:Niligiris Collector P.Sankar inspecting the solar fence installed at the garbage dumpyard in Gudalur. — Photo: Special Arrangement

Ordinary solar fencing could not keep wild elephants off the garbage dump yard at Gudalur. After several efforts, the Forest Department and the Gudalur Municipality with the help of wildlife enthusiasts have figured out a cost-effective way to keep the jumbos away from the yard.

Nearly 19 tonnes of garbage generated by the local body every day is dumped at the yard near the municipality and Naduvattam Panchayat border. Elephant herds feast on the garbage that usually has a mix of fruit and vegetable waste. Plastic waste in the garbage dumped poses a threat to wild animals.

“On May 31, a conventional solar fence with metal strings was erected for a stretch of 300 meters around the yard. That was the last day a herd of 13 elephants, comprising tuskers and calves, came there. They have stayed away after they suffered mild shocks,” says Gudalur-based wildlife conservationist H. Madhusudanan.

The next four days, two tuskers aged, about 30 years and 15 years, went around the fence and identified the week spots on the fence and damaged them. Between June 4 and 13, the two damaged the fence in more than 25 places. Modifications to the fence turned out to be futile. It was then that the metal tentacle-like structures protruding outside the fence were put up in a couple of places where the fence was damaged. But the animals managed to enter the yard through portions without tentacles.

By June 16, tentacles that were 1.5 to 2 feet long facing different directions were provided to the solar fence around the yard.

Psychological barrier

The tuskers, however, surprised the activists by opening the gate of the yard with its tusk (as it does not conduct electricity). “We have erected tentacles on the gate also now and the elephants could not enter the yard the last 10 days,” N. Mohanraj a consultant for World Wide Fund for Nature said. He added that solar fence was only a psychological barrier that frightens the animal and it has proved to be effective.

District Forest Officer (DFO) for Gudalur S.N. Tejaswi said it is a low-cost successful model and the government was ready to give subsidy to farmers who adopted it.

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