Pesticides behind jumbo deaths? Experts to inquire
The committee was formed to study the cause of death of wild elephants following rampant incidents of elephant deaths in the Coimbatore forest division, with around ten elephants reportedly losing their lives so far this year alone.
Coimbatore: A committee constituted to probe the death of wild elephants in the Coimbatore forest division has decided to send samples to Salim Ali Centre for Ornithology and Natural History (SACON) to find out if their deaths were triggered by the consumption of any poisonous substance.
“It has been decided to send samples to a standardised testing centre like SACON to know if the pesticide used in crops induces liver disorders among the crop-raiding elephants. Also, environmental toxicology research studies should be carried out in the Pethikuttai reserve forest area in Sirumugai Forest Range,” said A Sukumar, Forest Veterinary Officer, Coimbatore division, who heads the committee of four veterinarians. The committee was formed to study the cause of death of wild elephants following rampant incidents of elephant deaths in the Coimbatore forest division, with around ten elephants reportedly losing their lives so far this year alone.
Curiously, Pethikuttai in Sirumugai has turned out to be a hotspot for elephant deaths with at least five elephant deaths, with many among them diagnosed with liver infections. Last year, the Coimbatore forest division recorded 15 elephant deaths as against 20 in the previous year.
Pesticides or chemicals ingested from the elephant cannot kill an elephant directly, but they can trigger and cause liver damage, further leading to immune suppression in weak young animals failing the organ.
“Indeed, an organophosphorus compound (OPC) was detected in the deaths of two elephants in 2020. But during post mortems, their stomachs remained empty suggesting there was no direct poisoning. Usually, sick elephants stay back in this backwater area due to easy availability of fodder and water due to which the mortality rate is high in the area,” the veterinarian added.
The committee has also suggested random testing of the blood samples of elephants to study their liver and kidney functions. In addition, dung samples of crop-raiding elephants are likely to be collected and subjected to analysis to find out the concentration of OPCs for toxic profiling. The backwaters of Bhavanisagar serve as a water source for jumbos, which migrate from across TN, neighbouring Kerala and Karnataka states.
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