Addressing the man-animal conflict

The law forbids electrifying fences without permission. Even if permission is granted, there is a limit to the current that can be passed through the fences.

Published: 06th March 2020 04:00 AM  |   Last Updated: 06th March 2020 02:48 AM   |  A+A-

The recent electrocution of an elephant that strayed into a farm in Gudiyattam range in Tamil Nadu’s Vellore district by an electric fence set up illegally has again brought to the forefront the perennial man-animal conflict. A day after the jumbo’s death, a 20-year-old man was electrocuted in the same forest range, though in a different village, after coming in contact with an illegal electric fence erected around a farm.

The law forbids electrifying fences without permission. Even if permission is granted, there is a limit to the current that can be passed through the fences. Power from direct current (DC) can be mild, and is usually used to nudge wild animals away from farms. However, in several farmlands close to forest ranges, farmers are seen using alternating current (AC) from their domestic power supply to prevent animals from destroying the crops, making it fatal for anyone coming in contact with it. There have been multiple meetings among officials of the forest department, TANGEDCO (TN Generation and Distribution Corporation) and WWF India to see how one can end this menace.

One such meeting in Coimbatore last year had even resulted in TANGEDCO officials agreeing to go for routine checks to detect illegal electrification. But farmers are said to de-electrify the fences in the event of an inspection, only to restore it later. The electrocution deaths of jumbos or tigers at least come to light. But most of the time, the victims are smaller animals like deer and even rare bird species, which usually go unnoticed.

Farmers have been asked to approach officials of the forest department if crops are found to be raided by straying animals. As per the guidelines, they are eligible for compensation for crop loss. Further, animal deaths due to illegally electrified fences can land the farmer in the police net for violating the Wildlife Protection Act. Now, with summer approaching, more animals would migrate, increasing the possibility of them straying into farmlands. So there is an urgent need for the authorities to sensitise farmers and also devise foolproof measures to tackle illegal electrification of fences.


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