According to the NDTV, on October 26, seven elephants died in Odisha’s Dhenkanal after coming in contact with the live electric wire. Apparently, this is the highest casualty of elephants in a single incident in Odisha. The villages found the carcasses of three elephants, and the other four were found lying inside the canal near paddy fields.
As per the Assistant Conservator, Jitendranath Das, the incident took place when a herd of 21 elephants were passing through the village in Sadar Forest Range after which the elephants came in contact with an 11-KV line. Among the seven elephants, five were female elephants and a tusker.
Elephants in India are revered as embodiments of Lord Ganesha, who according to Hindu belief, is the remover of obstacles, patron of arts, sciences and lord of intellect and wisdom. But how much wisdom are we showing while taking care of these gentle giants? Reportedly, 655 elephants have died in India from 2009 to 2017, said the environment ministry. This means that on an average, almost 80 elephants die every year and subsequently, seven per month and one every four days. There are many reasons behind it, but the main reasons are electrocution, train accidents, poaching and poisoning.
The tragedy that could have been averted
A forest officer said that the incident is appalling. He also said that despite the instructions given to turn down the electricity to the electricity department the supply remained switched on till noon even after the incident took place. The villagers including the sarpanch claimed that the tragedy “could have been averted”. They further said that they had reportedly drawn the attention of the electric department of the drooping overhead line; however, nothing was done. They claim that rectification by bamboo or a pole would have avoided the incident.
The forest Minister, Bijayshree Rautray called the incident “most unfortunate” and also blamed the electricity department for the negligence, as reported by The Statesman. He added saying that a case will be registered against the people who are responsible for the incident.
Just days after the incident, on Sunday, the Odisha Chief Minister, Naveen Patnaik ordered an official inquiry by the Crime Branch into the case.
Odisha Chief Minister Naveen Patnaik has ordered crime branch inquiry into the incident of electrocution of seven elephants near Kamalanga village in Dhenkanal district, directed to take appropriate action in case of any criminal negligence. (File pic) pic.twitter.com/KjRKH9sEIY
— ANI (@ANI) October 28, 2018
Meanwhile, the Odisha government has also sacked one junior engineer and has suspended six officials from the Central Electricity Supply Utility. The forest department has also suspended three members from their staff, including a the Dhenkanal Range Officer.
In connection with the death of 7 elephants after electrocution in Dhenkanal, state government suspended 6 officials & sacked a junior engineer of Central Electricity Supply Utility (CESU). Forest department has suspended three of its filed staff including Dhenkanal Range Officer pic.twitter.com/VBvj8E5MJf
— ANI (@ANI) October 28, 2018
This is not the first incident, where these pachyderms have lost lives due to human negligence. At least 26 elephants died in 2016 in the southern state of Kerala due to torture and negligence by their custodians. According to the reports of Heritage Animal Task Force, a voluntary body focusing on animal welfare said, individuals owned 20 of them, three were under the control of state forest department, and three were in Guruvayur temple.
India has highest number of elephant deaths in railway accidents
Humans, who are considered the most intelligent animals also have time and again have trespassed the animal habitat by making rail tracks in the forest area or by taking over their land altogether. In one incident, four elephants were killed after they were hit by a speeding train in Jharsuguda district in Odisha. The train was crossing a forest range area on Monday which is a designated elephant corridor. Elephants were passing through the railway track on the Howrah-Mumbai line when Bokaro Allepy Express hit them.
Earlier in February this year, four elephants were killed in Assam after a speeding train hit them in Nagaon district. The elephants were hit by Guwahati-Silchar passenger train when it was crossing trough Hawaipur railway station. Five elephants were killed after they were hit by a moving train in Odisha in December 2012. The incident was reported in the Rambha forest area.
According to wildlife experts, India records the highest number of elephant deaths due to train accidents in the world. The experts had also written to the Railway Minister Piyush Goyal, expressing their concerns over the issue. They had also listed solutions urging ministery to take cognisance of the matter.
However, Railways has come up with an innovative way to prevent elephants from coming towards the railway lines. The ‘Plan Bee’ is a method in which a device is set up near the railway lines. This device will emit the buzzing sound of bees, and that will prevent elephants from approaching the tracks.