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Elephant electrocuted in Udalguri district, again

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By Staff Reporter in Guwahati
  • Published 30.09.09
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Guwahati, Sept. 29: A pregnant elephant was electrocuted last night by high voltage power lines laid by villagers to keep away elephants from their paddy fields at number 2 Athgoria village in Assam’s Udalguri district, close to the Indo-Bhutan border.

Villagers “hook” cables to overheard power lines and lay them in the paddy fields to keep away elephant herds.

Poachers at Kaziranga National Park resort to a similar technique to nail rhinos by laying cables connected to power lines on paths frequently used by the animals.

Haladhar Kalita, the range officer of Nonoi forest range under Udalguri forest division, said the pregnant elephant died after it came into contact with wires connected to high voltage power lines running above. “The carcass was found right in the middle of a paddy field,” he added.

This is the second such incident within a week in the area. On September 25, a young tusker was electrocuted on a paddy field at Satghoria village, about a kilometre from number 2 Athgoria. Three persons were arrested after the forest department lodged a complaint at Panery police station.

The forest department personnel who arrived at the electrocution site this morning had to face the wrath of the villagers who complained that the former were not doing anything to protect the paddy fields from marauding herds of wild elephants.

“The villagers, already angry following the arrest of three persons in connection with the September 25 incident, were in an attacking mood when we arrived at the incident site,” Kalita said.

The forest personnel had to take the help of police to reach the site of the incident.

“We did not find the cables laid by the villagers which killed the elephant. But preliminary investigations suggest that the elephant died of electrocution,” Kalita said, adding that the cables may have been removed by the villagers before the arrival of forest department personnel.

The divisional forest officer of Udalguri, Bankim Sharma, said a herd of about 200 elephants, scattered in small groups, had descended from the Bhutan hills about a month ago and had been straying into human habitat frequently.

The Bhutan border is about 6km from the site of last night’s incident.

“We have formed anti-depredation committees so that villagers do not attack elephants. We have also provided crackers to the villagers to scare away the elephants,” Sharma said.

Man-elephant conflict has resulted in the death of five elephants and five persons in Udalguri and Sonitpur recently, forcing the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) to hold a series of awareness meetings in villages along the Indo-Bhutan border in both the districts.

“Depleting forest cover and increase in human settlements have resulted in an increase in such incidents. The elephants have nowhere to go,” a wildlife expert engaged with the WWF (India) North Bank Landscape Programme said.

The site where the electrocution took place is on a regular migratory route of elephant herds, which keep shuttling between Bhutan and Arunachal Pradesh via the Assam corridor.