Illegal electric fence beside paddy field kills wild elephant in Palakkad

The carcass of the wild elephant, which was electrocuted by an illegal live electric fence, at Nochupully in Puthupariyaram panchayat. Photo: Manorama

Mundur: A wild elephant was killed after coming into contact with an illegal live electric fence set up near a paddy field at Machingaparambu, Nochupully in Puthupariyaram panchayat in Palakkad district.

The fence, which was reportedly installed to keep wild boars from trespassing into farmland, unfortunately, electrocuted the female elephant aged around 25 years.

The carcass of the elephant was noticed by local people early on Wednesday. Forest Department officials soon reached the spot, conducted a post-mortem and disposed of the body in the Walayar forest.

Local residents said they had heard cries of an elephant around 2 am on Wednesday. The menace of wild elephants was severe in the area, they said. A herd of elephants, including the dead female, was seen in the region over the past few days, they added.

Officials later noticed a 300-m-long wire fence near a field which was connected to the main KSEB (Kerala State Electricity Board) supply.

Sticks of the breadfruit tree were found fixed on the borders of the field and the electric wire attached to them. The wire was then directly connected to the KSEB cable.

Officials said the arrangement posed a danger to people as well. The elephant apparently came into contact with the wire while entering the field and was electrocuted, they said. There were several injury marks on the elephant and blood oozed from its eyes, the officials added.

The accident spot is located a mere 1 km from a teak plantation in the Mundur section of the Olavakkode forest range. The plot of land is owned by two brothers, who are residents of Palakkad town, and it had been leased to a third party to cultivate paddy. Forest officials later questioned the tenant over the incident.

The carcass of the wild elephant being carried away for postmortem. Photo: Manorama

Palakkad Divisional Forest Officer (DFO) Kurra Srinivas was among the forest officials who reached the spot and the probe is being led by Olavakkode Range Officer V Vivek.

Meanwhile, the police said that another case would be filed over electricity theft based on a report from the Electrical Inspectorate.

Poaching, says Forest Dept

According to Forest Department officials, electric fences are installed to poach wild animals under the guise of protecting farmland. They suspect poachers are now active in the area.

“These gangs operate at night. When an animal is trapped, the carcass is removed in vehicles under the cover of darkness,” the officials said.

Encroachment blamed

Haridas Machingal, president of the Palakkad district Elephant Lovers’ Sangham, said that farming activities close to the borders of the forest, encroachment of forest land and construction near elephant paths were forcing the mammal to venture out of the forest area.

Proper clearances should be given by both Forest Department and KSEB for installing electric fences, he added.

Electric trap’ for Forest officials

Forest Department officials are also concerned over the illegal electric fences set up near farmlands. “We have to enter paddy fields and other cultivated areas to scare away elephants as part of our job. Such illegal electric fences are a threat to our lives,” said an officer.

Incidentally, two police officers belonging to the Muttikulangara Armed Police Camp had lost their lives recently after being electrocuted in a paddy field not far from the spot of Wednesday’s incident.

KSEB officials inspect the illegal electric fence that killed the wild elephant. Photo: Manorama

“Everyone should be alert against such misuse of electricity,” said KSEB assistant engineer K Manikandan who arrived at the spot along with other KSEB and Electrical Inspectorate officials.

Jail for killing animals

Harming and killing wild creatures could attract rigorous imprisonment of three-seven years and fines ranging from Rs 1,000-25,000 under the Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972. Even stoning to death an animal or bird is punishable.

Three-year rigorous imprisonment awaits those killing birds such as herons and waterfowls, as per Schedule 2 (Part 3) of the Act, while a seven-year jail is imposed on persons found guilty of killing elephants, tigers and leopards, which are Schedule 1 animals.

Punishment for power theft

Illegally drawing power directly from KSEB supply could invite a three-year jail sentence and fine. If loss of life occurs, manslaughter charges too could be imposed by the police.

Section 135 of the Electricity Act, 2003 says that illegally connecting to the main supply, using a faulty meter and power theft using special equipment are crimes.

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