Mundur: A wild elephant was killed after coming into contact with an illegal electric fence installed near a paddy field in Machingaparambu, Nochupully in Puthupariyaram panchayat in Palakkad district.
The fence, believed to have been erected to prevent wild boars from entering farmland, unfortunately electrocuted the female elephant, who is around 25 years old.
The elephant carcass was noticed by locals early Wednesday. Forest Department officials quickly arrived on the scene, conducted an autopsy and dumped the body in the Walayar forest.
Neighbors said they heard elephant cries around 2 a.m. Wednesday. The threat from wild elephants was serious in the area, they said. A herd of elephants, including the dead female, have been seen in the area in recent days, they added.
Authorities then noticed a 300m long wire fence near a field which was connected to the main power supply of the KSEB (Kerala State Electricity Board).
Sticks from the breadfruit tree were found fixed to the edges of the field and the electrical wire attached to them. The wire was then directly connected to the KSEB cable.
Officials said the arrangement also posed a danger to people. The elephant apparently came into contact with the wire as it entered the field and was electrocuted, they said. There were several wound marks on the elephant and blood was streaming from its eyes, officials added.
The crash site is located just 1 km from a teak plantation in the Mundur section of the Olavakkode Forest Range. The land is owned by two brothers, who reside in the town of Palakkad, and had been leased to a third party to cultivate paddy. Forest officials then interviewed the tenant about the incident.
Palakkad Divisional Forestry Officer (DFO) Kurra Srinivas was among the forestry officers who reached the location and the investigation is being led by Range Officer Olavakkode V Vivek.
Meanwhile, police said another case would be filed for electricity theft based on a report from the Electricity Inspectorate.
Poaching, according to the Forest Department
According to Forest Department officials, electric fences are being erected to poach wildlife 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 cover of darkness,” officials said.
Haridas Machingal, district chairman of Palakkad Elephant Lovers’ Sangham, said agricultural activities near forest edges, encroachment of forest lands and construction near elephant trails were forcing the mammal to venture out of the forest area.
Appropriate permits must be granted by the Forestry Department and KSEB for the installation of electric fences, he added.
‘‘Electric trap’ for forest officers
Forestry Department officials are also concerned about illegal electric fences installed near farmland. “We have to enter rice paddies and other cultivated areas to scare away elephants as part of our job. These illegal electric fences are a threat to our lives,” an officer said.
Incidentally, two police officers belonging to the Muttikulangara armed police camp had recently lost their lives after being electrocuted in a rice paddy not far from the scene of Wednesday’s incident.
“Everyone should be vigilant against such misuse of electricity,” said KSEB Assistant Engineer K Manikandan, who arrived at the scene along with other officials from KSEB and the Electricity Inspectorate.
Jail for killing animals
Harming and killing wild creatures could result in imprisonment for three to seven years and fines ranging from 1,000 to 25,000 rupees under the Wildlife Protection Act 1972. Even the stoning of an animal or a bird is punishable.
Three years of rigorous imprisonment awaits those who kill birds such as herons and waterfowl, according to schedule 2 (part 3) of the law, while a sentence of seven years of imprisonment is imposed on people convicted of killing elephants, tigers and leopards, which are Schedule 1 animals.
Punishment for theft of electricity
Unlawfully drawing electricity directly from KSEB’s supply could result in a three-year prison sentence and a fine. In the event of death, charges of manslaughter could also be imposed by the police.
Section 135 of the Electricity Act 2003 states that illegal connection to main supply, use of faulty meter and theft of electricity using special equipment are crimes .