Electrocution threat to pachyderms in Odisha (India)
July 21, 2021
Conservationists have expressed deep concern over the recent spate of
electrocution-induced elephant deaths in Odisha and sought for the
government’s intervention to save the heritage animals from meeting gory
“The recent spate of elephant deaths in Odisha caused by electrocution is a
matter of deep concern. The elephants were electrocuted within a span of
just 34 days. It is a heinous crime against nature, and the voiceless
gentle giants of our planet who continue to suffer and die silently due to
human ignorance and arrogance, exacerbated by apathy, complacency,
negligence and a lack of reverence for the natural world that sustains all
of humanity”, Sangita Iyer, founder, Voice for Asian Elephants Society
(VFAES) rued in a letter to State’s energy minister, Dibya Shankar Mishra
The recent death of a 10-year-old male elephant which was electrocuted by
live wire that poachers had laid inside the Angul forest division merits
concern on the safety of the pachyderms. Electricity access to the wire was
obtained from the air breaker (AB) switch station installed in the
vicinity, an invitation to the poachers to carry out illicit activities, as
the AB switches are not barricaded. Worse still, the switch handles of the
11 Kv overhead power lines are not insulated, making it easy for the
poachers to connect live wires in order to trap the wildlife, she said.
At least three elephants were killed by sagging wires and live wire traps
laid by poachers. In 2020, at least nine elephants were killed by live wire
traps laid by poachers who accessed electricity through the AB switch
Of the 128 elephant deaths in Odisha caused by electrocution in the past
one decade, 45 were killed by sagging wires, and 83 by live wire (poaching,
high-voltage illegal fences, 17 defunct solar fencing). These deaths were
avoidable. The electricity and forest departments neglected to take
proactive measures. Nearly 30 elephants were electrocuted between 2018 and
2020 alone, caused by live wire fence and wire traps laid for poaching.
Live wire poaching traps, sagging overhead lines and electrified fences
result in electrocution of these national heritage animals. The growing
elephant fatality thoroughly exposes the absence of patrolling, the
conservationist claimed. The Forest Department is found wanting in
gathering ground-level feedback in prevention of elephant electrocution,
according to conservationists.
Elephant squads which are deployed to keep tab on animals’ act of trespass
into human habitations ought to be directed to detect sagging lines and
report it to distcoms (power distribution companies) so that it could be
elevated to safe heights.
There is no local reward system to prevent any hooking for live wire
poaching. Not a single Distcom official has been convicted and jailed under
Wildlife (Protection) Act, 1972 despite the death of more than 100
elephants caused by sagging overhead lines.
There is the need to set up reinforced electric poles fitted with spikes to
prevent elephants rubbing against them and lifting of sagging overhead
power lines. The overhead wires across all elephant habitats and movement
zones should be insulated, they suggested.