In India, elephant poaching has taken an electrifying turn—literally.
In an attempt to stay one step ahead of the local authorities, poachers in the Ganjam district of Odisha, India, are configuring power lines into homemade, electrocution tripwires, which they are using to kill elephants. Two hundred ninety-five elephants have died in Odisha so far; 61 of those deaths have occurred because of some kind of electrocution.
This has caused a controversy between Odisha’s wildlife conservation and energy department officials. The former believe the poaching is made possible by lax regulation of the power lines; they believe that electricity has spread to rural areas without any supervision by Odisha’s electric companies. The wildlife officers have suggested several remedies, including building taller, more insulated power lines, to help ensure the elephants’ safety. Others suggest cutting off power to areas with large elephant populations during strategic migratory periods.
The energy officials believe that they are not responsible for the illegal poaching. They assert that it is up to the wildlife agency, not the electric companies, to prosecute the poachers. The chief executive officer of Southco, the area’s electric company, told the Times of India that the company has heightened transmission wires and is taking other measures to protect the elephants.
Sadly, poaching is not the only danger to the Indian elephant species. Destruction of their habitat and food sources is also an increasingly serious threat. Elephants are being driven out of their natural habitats, which forces them closer to villages and farmers. The close human-elephant proximity usually leads to even more poaching.
Instead of wasting time trying to determine what government agency is at fault, action must be taken to end elephant poaching. Administrators have stepped up the number of patrols in the Ganjam District in attempts to discourage poachers. But with a worldwide Asian Elephant population of fewer than 20,000, a number that conservation experts agree is frighteningly low, that may not be enough to protect these animals.
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