Elephant deaths: Underground cabling to prevent electrocutions (Kodagu District, India)


Meera Bhardwaj, New Indian Express

Date Published
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BENGALURU: As a long-term measure to mitigate the death of elephants due to electrocution, both Chamundeshwari Electricity Supply Corporation (CESC) and Forest Department propose to carry out joint underground cabling in Virajpet. Since the costs are prohibitive, it will be a joint venture between the two departments.

Following the death of four elephants near Yadur village in Virajpet taluk on Tuesday, the Forest Department had called in for underground cabling in both Thithimathi and Kushalnagar forest zones which witnesses heavy movement of elephant herds.

Officials say the department has a road map of elephant distribution and movement, and these areas could be identified for underground cabling. Both the departments will carry out a joint probe into the two incidents where six elephants died due to electrocution and a factual report will be submitted to the government within a week. A coordination committee too has been set up to oversee the progress of raising the height of poles, repair and maintenance of power lines. Forest officials will identify the areas where the pole height has to be increased.

According to Machu Machaiah, a naturalist from this region who visited both the death spots, the incidents happened due to negligence. He adds, “In the first incident, the power line was low, just 8 feet above ground while in the second incident, it was 12 feet above ground. However, there was no tree nearby and how a branch fell on the line is a mystery. Despite complaints being lodged with the CESC, they did not bother to address the problem citing lack of labour and time.”

Death & Mourning

Preliminary investigations revealed that a branch fell on a live wire and an elephant calf was caught in it. An official said, “A matriarch elephant may have gone to rescue this calf while another calf and female elephants may have been caught in the snapped cable.”

Officials say there is a group of 40 elephants moving from Tata estate to Palakere, and around other coffee estates. “Unfortunately, during the heavy downpour in last three days, four or five animals that split from the group got electrocuted by snapped live cables,” they said. On Tuesday, when the four animals were found dead, this group’s desperate call could be heard in the evening. They may have been mourning, officials added.

WhatsApp complaint

On Wednesday, a meeting was held between forest and power officials to address the problem of snapped and sagging cables near coffee estates and other elephant habitats. The meeting was chaired by CESC MD and CCF Madikeri and attended by officials from both the departments. Officials agreed that complaints regarding snapped cables could be given to the forest department through a WhatsApp group of range forest officials by uploading the details.