COIMBATORE: A sudden spike in elephant deaths under the Coimbatore forest division has caused an uproar in social media. Responding to online criticisms on the department’s efficiency, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forest, Coimbatore, Debasis Jhana, said that they have been working with 65-70 per cent of the sanctioned staff strength.
“Anti-poaching watchers and guards are not machines. They have been working hard to protect the forest and conserve wildlife. It is not fair to criticise the department for elephant deaths, especially without knowing the efforts made,” Debasis said.
Not a cakewalk
Explaining the limitations involved in working with limited staff, the official said, “With seven forest ranges under its ambit, the Coimbatore forest division is spread over 69,000 hectares. Considering the dense forest and low visibility, an anti-poaching watcher or guard or any other frontline staff would be able to perambulate 14 km (approximately 56 hectares) a day. However, the staff will not be able to walk alone in the thickets due to threats from wildlife, especially elephants. Such works are carried out as a team of three or four members. It eventually takes a long time for a team to return to the same place they have surveyed before.”
No manipulation of facts
Stating that 61 pachyderm deaths have been reported in Tamil Nadu this year, Debasis said, “Elephant deaths are common and natural. Every time a jumbo dies, we follow the Standard Operating Procedures (SOP) and conduct the postmortem examination. The reports are documented transparently. If an elephant dies of unnatural causes, we initiate a probe into the case. There is no room for manipulation of any data.”
Plea to appoint biologist
In the wake of this issue, Member of Osai, a city-based NGO, K Kalidass has requested the State government to allot funds to appoint a biologist exclusively to ascertain the reasons for the natural death of elephants in the Coimbatore forest division. He also pressed the need to check for the quality of water in the forest regions.
“Usually, elephant deaths increase during the summers. Although this summer was not as dry as the previous year, the number of deaths has increased and the cause is natural,” he said, adding, “Even in the summer, Prosopis Juliflora continues to be fresh and green. So, a study should be conducted to know if consumption of this plant will affect the animal’s health.”
- 14 elephant deaths are reported on an average every year
- 84 elephant deaths were reported in Tamil Nadu in 2018
- 108 elephant deaths were reported in the State in 2019
- 61 jumbos have died so far in 2020
In Tamil Nadu
- Hosur, Erode, Sathyamangalam, Coimbatore, Gudalur Mudumalai and Tirupur forest regions have witnessed a majority of deaths
(Source: Debasis Jhana)