A male elephant tragically passed away while trying to cross a fence in Nagarhole National Park in Karnataka on Saturday. Iron fences were erected in parts of the park to prevent elephants from crossing over into human settlements. The 42-year-old elephant had crossed over and raided an agricultural field on Friday. However, the elephant got stuck on the fence on the way back to the Veerahosahalli range.
"The elephant is an intelligent animal and just like humans, he tried to cross the barricade which was 7 feet tall and the elephant was 5 feet tall. He tried to climb the barricade step-by-step and got stuck. The diaphragm of the elephant got compressed very heavily due to the pressure that fell on it and because of that the choking of the respiratory organs occurred," Conservator of Forests and Director of Nagarahole National Park K.M. Narayanaswamy who was on the spot told TNM. The elephant passed away at around 5 am.
He further added that forest officials have tried several ways to solve the elephant-human conflict in the area and that an incident like this had happened for the first time in the state. "First, we tried elephant trenches and then solar fencing which both did not work. We are now trying the concept of fences but the elephant will try to cross barriers whatever we do to stop them," he added.
The fences came up after nearly Rs 212 crore was allocated in the 2015 state budget. Iron fences measuring 33km have been erected in the park as part of the first stage of the project.
The decision was criticised by environmentalists and conservationists who argued that the fence would not help reduce conflict and instead could lead to a situation of an elephant getting stuck in them.
The death of the tusker elicited strong responses on social media with users criticising the decision to erect the fence. The death of the elephant also comes two months after the death of another jumbo in the Matthigodu elephant camp. Rowdy Ranga, the elephant was hit by a speeding private bus in the middle of the night.
When we block #elephant passages, THIS happens. so heartbroken. The fencing around #Nagarahole #tiger reserve #Karnataka has killed this elephant, even as f government & even some scientists claim does no harm. My Supreme court PIL is opposing such fencing around #forests pic.twitter.com/x6waHbmqwTâ€” prerna singh bindra (@prernabindra) December 15, 2018
Died while crossing railway fences near Nagarhole. This happens when we block path which are used by these animals from generations. When we want infrastructure in middle of their homes. With no fault of their own. pic.twitter.com/oiNqmXxA5sâ€” Parveen Kaswan, IFS (@ParveenKaswan) December 15, 2018
The fences however look set to stay since they protect the crops of farmers from being trampled on by the elephants. "The fences were put up because there was a big demand from farmers to protect their crops. These fences have reduced the damage done to the crops by the elephants but unfortunately, it has led to an elephant dying. The elephant has tried to climb a fence that is taller than him and going forward, the officials might decide to increase the height of the fence even more," HC Kantharaju, a retired forest official who served in Nagarhole told TNM.
Narayanswamy further added that the fences cannot be criticised until the project is completed and the officials assess the movement patterns of the elephants.