After several trials and fixes, the installation of tentacle fencing, coupled with a monitoring system, has ensured that elephants do not enter the dump yard at Deivamalai in Gudalur for over a year now.
The dump yard, located along Naduvattam-Gudalur Road, used to attract a host of wildlife, including elephants, looking to steal a quick meal from the vegetable and fruit waste dumped there.
Apart from the elephants, leopards, deer, hare, mongoose and even the elusive Nilgiri marten believed to have used the dump yard as a base to forage for food.
However, conservationists and locals became concerned that wildlife, especially elephants, were entering the dump yard and consuming the waste, including plastics. With funding from the Gudalur Municipality, efforts were undertaken to prevent animals from entering the four-acre yard.
Gudalur-based conservationist H. Madhusudanan said that the installation of solar fences with tentacle-like projections (outward protrusions extending up to 5 feet in length from the main fence) ensured that there had been no breaches of the perimeter over the last year.
“We studied the elephants that came to the dump yard, and found that some of them had discovered that they could use their tusks to damage the fences,” said Mr. Madhusudanan.
After taking into account, the size of the tusks of the elephants frequenting the area, as well as the girth of the animals, conservationists came up with the ideal length of the tentacles protruding from the fence to prevent the elephants breaking in.
Moreover, a fence monitoring system, to keep tab on the voltage of the solar panels, battery, ground conductivity and on whether the battery was discharging power, has also been installed.
N. Mohanraj, honorary wildlife warden (Mudumalai and surrounding eco-sensitive zones), said that the parameters could be monitored remotely using a mobile device.
There were plans to improve the system in the coming months as well.
The FENMOS unit can also be used to remotely monitor whether there have been any disturbances to the fence, indicating a breach or a malfunction, which can be quickly rectified.
“The installation of the tentacle fences can be taken up along the perimeters of fields and farms as well,” added Mr. Madhusudanan, stating that the installation costs were only 5 - 10 % higher than the normal solar fences.
Though the installation of the fences had initially prompted the elephants to stray into human habitations and farms nearby, the animals eventually moved away after a few weeks and conflicts have reduced drastically, said Gudalur District Forest Officer P. K. Dileep.