Illegal electric fence kills 20-year-old elephant in Coimbatore, farmer booked

While the state government encourages battery-powered electric fencing for crop protection, it is illegal to draw power for the fence from an electricity line.
Elephant electrocuted in Coimbatore
Elephant electrocuted in Coimbatore
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A 20-year-old male elephant was found dead by electrocution near an agricultural field in Semmedu village in Boluvampatti range in Coimbatore district on Tuesday. The electrocution is suspected to have happened from the fencing around the paddy field near which the body of the elephant was found.

The incident is suspected to have happened in the wee hours of Monday near the agricultural field leased by Durai (Alias) Aaruchamy. Around 5.30 am, some villagers spotted the elephant and alerted the Border Patrolling team of the forest department, who rushed to the spot. The team also called the officials from the electricity board, who also reached the spot and inspected the area. Upon inspection, the officials found that the electricity to the fence was pulled from a local electricity post with a steel wire, illegally, which caused very high power to hit the elephant.

Speaking to TNM, District Forest Officer Venkatesh said that the elephant that died was spotted in the region on December 29 and then had gone into the thick forest. “It was chased into the forest by our teams back then. After that it came out only late last night. We have Border Patrolling teams working round the clock now since it is the migratory season for elephants," he said. Adding that Durai is missing since last night, Venkatesh said that a case has been filed against him by the Forest Department. An autopsy has also been scheduled on the elephant. 

Local farmers and activists demand CCTV monitoring

The spot where the elephant was found dead is around 2 kilometres away from the Boluvampatti reserve forest border. A few activists in the region have alleged that people working at the Isha Foundation had chased the elephant.

TNM spoke to an activist and a farmer from the region, however they did not have any proof readily available to prove the allegation. They maintained that if CCTV footage from the region is inspected, the people who chased the elephant can be found. They have demanded that the CCTV cameras in the area should be inspected.

District Forest Officer Venkatesh however categorically denied that any local residents or people in the ashram could have chased the elephant. "Driving away elephants is done only by our teams after careful assessment. Local people don't get involved in the driving operations since they know that the elephants can come back and attack them," he said.

Setting up electric fencing around agricultural fields is allowed only if the power is supplied through a battery set-up or solar cells. State government, in fact, encourages solar-powered fencing for protecting crops from intruders and wildlife. Electrifying the fence using direct connections from the power line is not permitted due to the high intensity of current, which can cause deaths to the animals. 

The constant movement of elephants in this region, especially during their migratory season has prompted several activists and farmers to demand that the state government set up CCTV cameras in the area, so that the movements of the animals can be traced better. 

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