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Two elephants die in Assam

- Power lines kill jumbo, another found with chopped trunk

Nagaon/Tezpur, Dec. 15: Two elephants died in Assam — one by electrocution and another found dead — in the last 24 hours, adding to the worries of the forest department.

An adult elephant was electrocuted in Bhimorali near Dholpukhuri under Hojai police station under Kopili forest range in Nagaon while another was found dead at Thulungjar near the Indo-Bhutan border in Udalguri district, both last night.

“The elephant, which was around 45 years old, was crossing the road with more than a hundred other tuskers, when it touched a 440kV electricity line at Bhimorali and got electrocuted. It died on the spot,” a forest official said.

The forest department has claimed negligence on the part of the electricity department, which led to the death of the animal.

A source said the standing committee of the National Board for Wildlife has framed guidelines for laying of power lines that pass through biodiversity-sensitive areas in order to minimise the negative impact on wildlife. The guidelines state that the height of grounding wires of power lines, whether insulated or bare, passing through all areas with known presence of elephants, should be a minimum of 20 feet (6.6 metres) above the ground.

These guidelines are important for states like Assam where animals, especially elephants, get electrocuted regularly. In 2010-11, six elephants were electrocuted in the state.

In fact, the ministry of environment and forests has proposed to make electrocution of animals a punishable offence but the relevant bill is yet to be passed.

The range officer in Udalguri, H. Kalita, said the elephant which died at Thulungjar had problems in the right eye and right legs. A team of doctors was rushed to the spot for carrying out post-mortem of the elephant to ascertain the cause of the death. “The elephant may have died owing to old age,” Sulav Sarma, a doctor who carried out the post-mortem, said.

This is the second elephant which has died during the past month in the district. A 12-year-old female elephant died on November 23 at Paneri tea estate in a deep canal.

Ananta Bag, chairman-cum-EO of Green Valley Forest and Wildlife Protection Society, an NGO, said following the acute shortage of fodder, habitat damage, flood and other problems, herds of wild elephants in Nunaipara, Nunaikhuti and Rajagarh areas of Udalguri have been creating mayhem in many villages.

Sources said a herd of 80-odd elephants have been wreaking havoc for the last two days near Paneri tea estate and searching for food in the paddy fields. Just two days ago, four persons were killed in an elephant attack at Nunaipara area near the tea garden.