Electric Fences Killing Elephants

Electric Fences Killing Elephants

Illegal electric fences in the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve in India are said to have killed at least four elephants in the past six months, making them one of the worst threats to the Reserve elephants. The Reserve houses about a quarter of all of the Asian elephants left in the country and reports say the illegal electric fences have killed more of them then even poachers.

The first incident of an elephant being killed by electrocution was said to have occurred back in September 2014. The tusker, which is a male elephant, died due to an electric fence put up in Bokkapuram at a private resort.

Another elephant was electrocuted by a fence put up at a farm in Chokkanalli in January 2015, and yet another that same month in Sholur at another farm. The fourth one reported killed by an electric fence was in March at another farm location.

Each one of these electric fences were illegal, and were built without any permission, as they are not allowed in those areas and the electricity was meant for other facilities or buildings. Biologists in the area say that the fence owners, as well as anyone who patrols the forest, are all in part responsible for the animals’ deaths.

Back in 2012, a high court decision informed the secretary of state environmental and forests department to get rid of any illegal electric or solar fences that were located in the areas where the elephants live. The decision was appealed, but the Supreme Court dismissed the appeal.

Even so, the electric fences still keep getting built in the areas where the elephants live in the Reserve because the farmers and others ignore the high court decision and the Supreme Court dismissal. Besides the four killed in the past six months, studies show that in the years between 2003 and 2012, an additional 318 were killed by electrocution.

Authorities consider elephant electrocution a form of poaching, and it is an offense that could net the offender three years in jail. However, the offenders usually are said to post bail and rarely go to prison.

Part of the problem is that there is an argument as to who charges whom because the forest department is supposed to prosecute the ones stealing electricity and using it for the electric fences. They should also be prosecuting those responsible for the deaths of the elephants. In the past, when the illegal electric fences were found, the electricity powering them was disconnected, according to the electricity board senior officer. Although electricity is being disconnected, no one appears to be doing anything regarding the deaths.

Conservationists are concerned about these elephant electrocutions because many of them are tuskers, which mean it changes the ratio of male and female elephants and that has a negative effect on the entire population of future elephants in the area. Therefore, they want the authorities to keep watch on this problem of putting up illegal electric fences in the elephant Reserve living areas.