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Mating elephants killed in tea estate

Jorhat, Nov. 28: Two elephants were electrocuted at a tea garden in Mariani here early this morning.

The elephants were part of a herd that had strayed out of Gibbon wildlife sanctuary last night. Forest officials suspect that the animals — a male and a female — were mating when their bodies came in contact with a power line.

Divisional forest officer (Jorhat) N.K. Malakar told The Telegraph that the two adult elephants were found dead with their trunks in contact with a power cable inside Sycotta tea estate today morning.

The animals lay beside a road inside the garden near the bungalow of the manager, Malakar said.

He said the power cable was used to supply electricity to the quarters of garden staff and labourers. It was at a reasonable height — about 14 feet from the ground — which suggests that the animals did not come in contact with the cable while passing through the area.

“It appears that the elephants, who were part of a herd of about 20, were mating when the male — because of it had mounted the female (thus raising its height) — came in contact with the power cable,” the DFO said.

Malakar said the power cable did not tear but fell to the ground along with the jumbos. He said the site of the incident was part of a corridor that is often used by elephants to enter and exit the sanctuary. The western boundary of the sanctuary is a short distance from the estate.

Usually, the jumbos do not stray into the tea garden during winter because they are attracted towards the ripened paddy that grows in the fields adjacent to the estates and in the surrounding areas of the sanctuary, the DFO said.

He said a veterinary team conducted the post mortem of the carcasses that were later buried near the site of the incident. An excavator had to be used to dig the elephants’ grave. The forest department removed the tusks of the male elephant before he was buried.

N.I. Hussain, the manager of the garden — which belongs to Assam Tea Corporation Limited — said a chowkidar (watchman) told him around 10pm that a herd of about 20 elephants was passing through the estate. This was quite normal and the residents were alerted, according to practice, he said.

“I heard trumpeting of elephants around 2am but it was not possible to venture out at that point of time. The cries must have come when the animals got electrocuted,” Hussain said.

The manager said he had requested the forest department to depute staff to the garden tonight, as there was a strong possibility that the herd would come to the spot where the animals had died and wreak havoc.

On Sunday, Mariani MLA Rupjyoti Kurmi had organised a meeting between villagers and garden workers at the community hall of Hatigarh tea estate to find ways to reduce incidents of man-elephant conflict.

The meeting, attended by chief conservator of forests (Upper Assam) J.M. Kouli and other forest officials had decided to carry out a study to explore the possibility of digging trenches along the edges of the sanctuary to minimise elephant depredation.