Two adult female elephants and a makhna were electrocuted by an illegal electric farm fence here, near a village in Marandahalli late Monday, March 6, 2023. Two calves that were part of the group however were saved in time after the forest squad alerted the TANGEDCO staff to disconnect the wire.
The incident happened near the reserve forest past 10.30 p.m on Monday night at Kali Kavundar Kottai village in Kendanahalli in Dharmapuri, when an anti-depredation squad was tracking a group of three adults and two calves in Marandahalli.
The forest department was closely tracking the group, and had briefly lost sight of them, until they heard the agonising cries of the elephants, said K.V.A. Naidu, District Forest Officer, Dharmapuri. “Our squad found three adults lying on the ground, along with a calf which was found alive. Immediately we alerted the electricity department staff and disconnected the power supply.” The adults were aged about 30 years old.
The field was lined by metal line, a foot-and half high to which a wooden stick fastened to a metal rod with a hook drawing power from a live wire, said DFO Mr. Naidu.
The tragedy left behind two calves aged under 9 months, which were roaming around the area trying to get close to their dead mothers at periodic intervals.
“We have to find ways to unite them with some other group. They cannot fend for themselves,” said the DFO.
Plight of calves
On Wednesday, a special team from Theppakadu Elephant camp will reach the site to try and unite the calves to the herd. “The challenge is to find a herd and see if they accept the calves. In the event of the herd not taking in the calves, the two young ones will be sent to Mudumalai elephant camp,” Mr.Naidu said.
The three elephants were buried on the site after a post-mortem. The two calves were driven to a distance of 200 mtrs from the bodies and a special team is monitoring and the feeding the calves.
This could have been averted had the EB department been carrying regular drives in the farms, activists said. The illegally tapping into the live wires usually happens after 10 p.m and it is pulled out before dawn.
“Regular drives and punishment by disconnecting power to the farms would have been a deterrent. But, because there have been no drives, it has emboldened the farmers,” says Mr. Naidu.
A 67-year-old farmer K. Murugesan was arrested.
A few weeks ago, an elephant was similarly electrocuted by an illegal fence in Denkanikottai in neighbouring Krishnagiri district, which is all part of the Cauvery North Wildlife Sanctuary. The elephant carcass was also clandestinely buried by the farmer till a tip-off led the forest department to the site of the crime.