Urea, the new poison for killing wild jumbos straying into farms (India)


Times of India

Date Published

CHENNAI: After fireworks and bullets, farmers are using ureato drive elephants from their lands, more often than not with deadly results.

Recently, two cases of wild elephants dying after eating jackfruit laced with urea have been reported in the state. A wildlife enthusiast from Virudhunagar district said farms and private estates in the border of Virudhunagar and Tirunelveli districts often keep jackfruits laced with urea to drive out elephants.

Even if a small quantity of urea is kept in the fruit, the animal will eventually die after consuming it. But as the elephant will die after walking for a day, it is often difficult to pinpoint where the animal ate the poison-laced fruit.

In the wild, only three animals eat jackfruit — elephants, lion-tailed macaques and sloth bears. The offenders cut open the top portion of the fruit and fill it with urea. They then cover the fruit to keep the urea from falling out.

Using urea to kill wildlife is not new, a wildlife researcher said. In a few southern districts of the state, farmers having land close to forests spray urea in nearby ponds. When spotted deer or other animals come and drink the water, they faint.

Once the animal is unconscious, the farmers kill it. Often, the animal ends up on dinner tables, the activist said.

When contacted, a veterinarian said detecting urea while performing postmortem of an elephant is often difficult. Urea gets converted into ammonia after the elephant’s death, making it difficult to prove presence of the poison. However, if the post-mortem is done within the few hours of the animal’s death, then chances of detecting urea in the carcass is easier. As urea is not a banned substance, it is easily available in the market.

This makes it a challenge for the authorities to stop such misuse of the product. A senior forest official said the issue can only be addressed by creating awareness among farmers and private estate owners and workers.