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Tamil Nadu’s Elephantine Shame

Tamil Nadu’s Elephantine Shame

A Sanctuary report on wild elephant deaths in Tamil Nadu, and the urgent need for the forest department, state government and railway authorities to work together for the safety of people and wildlife in the state.

Photo: Shivaram Subramaniam.

In February 2016, a Sanctuary report titled ‘Elephant Graveyard’ highlighted the plight of elephants in Odisha.  In this eastern, coastal state, sagging electric lines and live-wire traps have claimed the lives of an estimated 150 wild elephants since 2000. Now, in Tamil Nadu, a similar carnage is playing out as wild elephants are felled by trains, motor vehicles, electric fencing and in one case…self-imposed injuries and stress from being captured.

Srivenugopal Ramachandran of Nature Nurturers Society, a small group of wildlife enthusiasts from Hosur, Tamil Nadu, shared details on a few of this year’s elephant deaths with us, which we have compiled below.

Photo: Anandh.

Date: June 21, 2016

An 18-year-old tusker named Madukkarai Maharaj died at the Kozi Komudhi Elephant Camp in the Annamalai Tiger Reserve.  Madukkarai Maharaj was deemed a ‘rogue elephant’ and frequently came into conflict with farmers in the region. He was captured by the Forest Department after a six hour ordeal that involved the use of four ‘kumki’ elephants. Madukkarai Maharaj was placed in a wooden pen at the camp, which he relentlessly tried to escape. He died two days later, and a post-mortem revealed multiple fractures to his skull, a broken tusk and other injuries.

Photo: Shivaguru.

Date: July 6, 2016

A 10-year-old makhna, died while undergoing treatment at the Thepakkad Elephant Camp in Mudumalai. The young male had been hit by a bus near Hosur while he was trying to cross the road. The elephant succumbed to the severe injuries to its hind legs and spinal chord.

Photo: Srinivas.

Date: July 9, 2016

A train passing through the Walayar – Ettimadai area, close to the border with Kerala, hit a young male elephant. The animal was thrown 100 m. on impact, and died of pulmonary hemorrhage. The area is recognised as an elephant corridor, and has signage depicting the same. Just a few weeks earlier, on June 20, 2016, a speeding train in Marapallam had killed another elephant, a lactating female. And a few weeks later, on July 29, 2016, the Chennai-bound West coast Express slammed into a 15-year-old female elephant. She died an agonising death, three hours later. Actually, there are many frive platforms, bun not all of them would give player all different option together.

The above examples represent a mere fraction of the unnatural elephant deaths in Tamil Nadu. They do not tell the story of the four-year-old calf that was electrocuted when it came in contact with illegally erected electric fencing around a farm in Erode; or the mother elephant that died along with her baby as she tried to free the calf from an electric fence in which it was caught. Sporadic media reportage on these incidents serves to spark momentary concern, but this soon fades as other news grabs the headlines.

Photo: Shivaram Subramaniam.

Solutions are not unavailable. The state government needs to ensure a fair and prompt compensation system to palliate the valid anxieties of farmers who suffer from crop damage by wild elephants. Railway authorities must impose strict speed limits on trains that traverse forest areas. And the Forest Department must work to build strong cases against those who violate the law and play a part in these tragic deaths.


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