A male elephant died of electrocution in Puliyampara, in the Devarshola section of the Gudalur Forest Range on Friday (November 17, 2023) morning.
The tusker, aged 35 years, is said to have pushed a tree it was eating from, onto a Tamil Nadu Electricity Board power line running near the tree. The incident took place on a plot of agricultural land.
Conservator of Forests (Nilgiris), D. Venkatesh, said that a postmortem is to be conducted by veterinary assistant surgeon, Rajesh Kumar, from the Theppakadu Elephant Camp. He also said that the District Forest Officer (Gudalur division), Kommu Omkaram is conducting a detailed field inspection at the scene of the incident.
Mr. Omkaram, in a statement to The Hindu following the inspection, said that the elephant is known to generally inhabitat the O-Valley, Nadugani and Gudalur forest ranges. It entered a banana plantation early on Friday morning while moving between Needle Rock Reserve Forest and Puliyamvayal. The owner of the land, identified as A. Firoz, is said to have installed an iron wire fence to prevent crop raiding. The elephant had entered the plantation, and was then trying to leave the area by pushing an Indian coral tree onto the fencing, which fell on the electricity line, which in turn came into contact with the fence and killed the animal.
“It was a series of unfortunate events which led to the electrocution,” surmised Mr. Omkaram.
The elephant’s death is the latest in a series of incidents involving power lines in the Gudalur and Nilgiris forest divisions and the Mudumalai Tiger Reserve. Conservationists said that this was the seventh elephant that had died from coming into contact with a power line in the Gudalur landscape since 2016. In 2022, two elephants were killed when they came into contact with low-hanging electricity lines in separate incidents, while another elephant died in Coonoor.
In 2020, eight animals, including an elephant, four wild boars, two mongoose and a cobra died after being electrocuted due to a power leak from a high-tension power line, while two elephants were also killed in 2017, when they came into contact with a snapped power line in Srimadurai in Gudalur.
Conservationists have, for years, called on the government to direct the Tamil Nadu Generation and Distribution Corporation (Tangedco) and Tamil Nadu Electricity Board to ensure that electricity lines are a minimum of 14 feet above the ground and not in proximity to trees that could snap the lines if uprooted.
They have also urged the government to install ‘aerial bunched electricity cables’ for overhead cables connecting the power grids that run through elephant habitats in Gudalur and Mudumalai.
Mr. Omkaram said 10 other trees in the vicinity of the latest incident have been ordered to be cut to prevent similar accidents from taking place. “I have also directed my range officers to identify any other trees in patta and government lands that can lead to similar events, so that they can be cut down. The losses accrued by farmers will be compensated by the Forest Department,” he added.