West Bengal to constitute anti-electrocution cells to protect elephants in the wild

KOLKATA: The West Bengal government has decided to constitute multi-departmental anti-electrocution cells to protect wild elephants in the state, officials said on Thursday. The decision in this regard was taken during a recent meeting in north Bengal between officials of the Power and Forest Departments, they said.

“The cells will formulate preventive and mitigation strategies and monitor measures to prevent setting up of illegal electric fences.

“During the meeting, it was also decided to identify and raise the height of sagging high-tension lines and cover certain electric poles near elephant corridors with barbed wires to prevent the pachyderms from leaning against them,” Chief Wildlife Warden V K Yadav said.

Necessary vehicular support will be provided to the cells by the Forest Department or the WBSEDCL and each cell will have its own WhatsApp group for better coordination, he said.

The Forest Department will identify corridors frequented by the elephant and the WBSEDCL will insulate the low-tension lines passing through such corridors with aerial bunched cables, Yadav said.

The department will also set up electric fences with “low-voltage pulsating current” to prevent the elephants from wandering into human settlements, he said.

The WBSEDCL will thoroughly check why the circuit breakers for the high-tension feeder lines did not trip after elephants came in contact with them in the past, another official said.

The tea garden managements may not be encouraging the setting up of illegal electric fences but there are several such fences near labour colonies that cause electrocution of the elephants, he said.

The Forest Department will identify tea gardens adjacent to elephant corridors and the cells will ensure that the managements of the estates erect only low-voltage fences, the official said.

As per the department, 25 elephants have died due to electrocution in north Bengal in the last five years, of which nine incidents took place this year.

“The principal cause of deaths of elephants was found to be unauthorized extension of low-tension domestic power lines on the periphery of the forests and the use of electric fences,” Yadav said.

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