With a mother elephant being gunned down by two farmers in Mettupalayam after it raided their corn field on Wednesday night, the recent spate of elephant deaths in the Coimbatore forest division has raised concerns among wildlife activists.
A total of 13 elephants have lost their lives so far since January this year as against 11 deaths in the whole of last year and 12 the previous year. The latest addition to their series of deaths was an ailing elephant at Sirumugai forest range on Friday.
“This is alarming. The forest department should carry out proper investigation to find out the exact cause of the animals’ deaths and take preventive measures. Most deaths are concluded as either due to disease or infighting,” said R Mohammed Saleem, president of Environmental Conservation Group (ECG), an environmental NGO in Coimbatore. These deaths have come into focus, especially after the Mettupalayam incident and two other jumbos dying due to sickness earlier. The Forest Department, however, maintains that such deaths are normal. “Barring the one elephant which was gunned down by two farmers, all others died due to natural ailments and infighting. It’s quite natural as on an average, 14 elephants die every year in the Coimbatore forest division. There is no failure on the part of the Department as best efforts are put in to save the ailing ones,” said C Badrasamy, a retired DFO, assisting the Coimbatore forest division in conservation efforts.
If there were fewer deaths recorded in a particular year, that could have been because of the perambulation exercise by the staff. “The Department has only 10 frontline staff and another 10 anti-poaching watchers to keep vigil of the forest spread over 250 sq kms in the district. When the population of elephants is more, possibility of deaths is also higher,” Badrasamy added. Various NGOs have decided to come forward in Coimbatore to raise the issue with the government. “Elephants sometimes fall ill and suffer slow deaths if they consume a huge amount of urea or other harmful pesticides mixed with water in farms bordering forest fringes. Only a proper investigation will reveal the truth,” said an NGO member.
Coimbatore DFO D Venkatesh said that efforts were being taken to increase patrol in the forest areas to prevent poaching. “The Department has been making maximum efforts to save ailing elephants. Farmers should not resort to killing them if they raid their farms and instead claim compensation for the damaged crops,” he said.
Ailing elephant dies of starvation
Another ailing elephant died of starvation in the Sirumugai forest range on Friday noon, taking the toll to 13 since January this year in the district. The tusker aged eight was found lying in Pethikuttai area on June 28. It was revived after medicine, including glucose, antibiotics, de-worming tablets, vitamin and mineral supplements, were administered to it. Though the animal got better and entered the forest on its own, it collapsed the very next day in a nearby area. Despite receiving treatment for the last five days, the elephant died and a post mortem was carried out by a team of veterinary experts.