An elephant died of electrocution in Ranchi’s Khalari block on Saturday morning after coming in contact with a high-tension wire placed by villagers at a farm to generate power for watering the field, forest officials said.
While the residents of Dhelwatand village in Khalari, where the incident occurred, have pleaded innocence terming the death of the tusker, a female of 35, as an accident, forest officials have initiated a probe into the matter to see if the wire was deliberately placed in the field to harm elephants.
“The possibility of villagers deliberately placing the wire in the field to harm elephants cannot be denied. However, prima facie, it seems that the wire was placed in the field to power machines used for irrigation,” said district forest officer (DFO), Ranchi, Ashok Kumar Dubey.
Forest officials recently chased away a herd of elephants from Dhelwatand village, about 60 km from Ranchi, and the female elephant who died on Saturday is assumed to be a member of the same herd. The elephant came in contact with the naked wire, hanging from a pole, while she was crossing the field, forest officials said.
According to the DFO, the naked wire was hanging at a height where it can only come in contact with an animal as tall as an elephant. “This indicates that the wire was not placed there to keep other wild animals at bay,” said Dubey, assuring that the villagers responsible for the incident will be prosecuted.
As per records with the forest department, at least three elephants died of electrocution in Ranchi last year. The forest department, however, does not have any data on the total number of elephants that have died of electrocution across Jharkhand.
On an average, eight elephants were killed annually in the past decade in Jharkhand. As per the elephant mortality data with the state forest department, 82 elephants were killed from 2009-10 to 2018-19.
The man-elephant conflict in Jharkhand has been a concern for wildlife conservationists in the state. Since tuskers often go on the rampage in villages and even cause human fatalities, villagers in many areas of the state take measures at their own level to tackle the jumbo menace, sources said.
Under the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, people involved in harming an elephant or even attempting to harm an elephant can be imprisoned for up to seven years.