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Wildlife lovers and experts say that while poisoning, shooting, foot-traps (snares) and even explosive-traps are among some of the popular poaching methods in Indian forests, electrocution is on the rise because it goes mostly undetected and animals die quickly.
“In [the] last three years, this trend has increased … the incidents point towards a specialised poaching … maximum cases go undetected,” Shekhar Niraj, Head of TRAFFIC, a wildlife trade monitoring network in alliance with the WWF, said.
According to experts, while shooting is risky and poisoning often harms cattle, leading to an uproar from the villagers, electrocution is a silent way that mostly goes undetected.
“Only strong intelligence and active surveillance can stop the rising incidents of electrocution,” Niraj added.
Among some of the most recent incidents, at least two elephants, one tigress, two leopards, two sambar deer and one sloth bear were killed due to electrocution in different regions of the country. The reasons were both poaching and accidental.
On January 27, a 20-year-old elephant died after coming into contact with an illegal electric fence around a field near Karnataka’s Bandipur National Park. On January 25, a female elephant died due to electrocution in the forests of Odisha’s Rourkela district.
“The elephant climbed a small Bandha to reach out to the leaves, and touched the loosely hanging wire. We had informed the electricity department. Wires often hang loose due to the long distance between the electric poles in forests,” Rourkela District Forest Officer Sanjeet Kumar said on telephone.
Electrocution is a method in which a wired trap or fence, mostly powered by a high tension electric line passing nearby in the forests, is used to kill the animals, either for poaching or to protect fields from herbivores. The electric wires are either placed on the preferred routes of the animals or passed through the water bodies used by animals.
Wildlife experts say instances of electrocution are on the rise and despite the 2005 guidelines of the Supreme Court’s Central Empowered Committee (CEC) to the State Electricity Boards and Forest Departments to strengthen security to prevent poaching by electrocution, nothing much has been done.
According to Tito Joseph of the Wildlife Protection Society of India (WPSI), while every year at least 20 elephants die due to electrocution, at least 43 elephants were killed in 2016 in this manner.
“In 2011, at least 11 leopards died due to electrocution and at least 10 wild tigers were poached,” Joseph said.
Two leopards, one tigress and two sambar deer were also electrocuted between January 11 and 14 in different forest divisions of Maharashtra’s Nagpur district.
On January 25, a sloth bear was found electrocuted with its claws harvested, in Amravati Forest Division of Maharashtra, an official said.