Strong government action a must to save jumbos from electrocution
The movie follows a tribal couple named Bomman and Bellie, employed by the state forest department, who successfully raise two abandoned elephant calves.
March brought much joy to India, especially Tamil Nadu when the documentary 'The Elephant Whisperers' won an Academy Award. The movie follows a tribal couple named Bomman and Bellie, employed by the state forest department, who successfully raise two abandoned elephant calves. The film’s production was aided by the state forest department and threw light on some of TN’s successes with wild elephants. However, March has also brought home uglier truths about the state of wild elephants in TN. This month alone, five elephants have died of electrocution in the state, three in a single encounter with an illegal electric fence put up by a farmer. An RTI reply showed that 82 elephants died of electrocution in TN from 2012–13 to 2021–22. What The Elephant Whisperers only touches on briefly is that humans have crept into the spaces of these gentle giants, causing pain and suffering to both sides of a needless conflict.
While the state did initiate the process to check illegal usage of the permitted solar fences, in the aftermath of the deaths, its compliance with National Board of Wildlife guidelines to prevent deaths of wild animals by electrocution has been minimal at best, as per data available with TNIE. Forest and electricity officials are supposed to undertake regular joint inspections in forests and adjoining areas. Action should be taken against landowners using illegal electric fences. Power cables are meant to be insulated and run underground. Electric poles are supposed to be surrounded by spiked guards to fend off wild animals. Data available with TNIE suggests compliance is minimal, at best. Both departments have been pulled up by the Madras High Court, which has summoned the power corporation’s chairman and the Principal Chief Conservator of Forests to explain in person on April 19 why its orders have not been complied with.
It cannot be denied that the state forest department has been successful on several fronts, including the conservation of wild elephants. Yet it cannot rest on its laurels. Indeed, the tragic deaths have wiped away the joy brought by the Academy Award. Instead, it is time for the government to put its money where its mouth is and allocate sufficient funds to ensure compliance with necessary guidelines and prevent more tragedies.