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70 elephants died of various causes in Karnataka in 2021 – Mrit News

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Karnataka, which harbours around 6,000 elephants in the wild as per the 2017 census, has lost 70 of them due to various causes in 2021.

Of these, 15 were attributed to unnatural causes, including 10 due to electrocution. One elephant was killed in a train accident, another was shot, one elephant died due to injuries caused by snares while the cause of death was not ascertained in one case. The remaining were classified as death due to natural causes.

This is evident in the mortality details of elephants in the State that has been uploaded by the Forest Department and is akin to tiger mortality figures uploaded by the National Tiger Conservation Authority.

Matter of worry

While the deaths due to natural causes are not reckoned to be worrying given the elephant population range in the State, the deaths due to electrocution alone underlines the prevailing human-elephant conflict in the State.

In Karnataka, elephants are mainly found in the southern parts and 36 of them have died in Chamarajanagar circle, while there were 12 deaths in Mysuru, 10 in Kodagu, 7 in Bengaluru, 4 in Hassan, and 1 in Chikkamagaluru circle, according to authorities.

Saswathi Mishra, Additional Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife) and in charge of Project Elephant, said the mortality figures were normal given the elephant population range and the deaths owing to natural causes were mainly due to old age, infection or injuries incurred during infighting.

‘’But as far as 15 unnatural deaths are concerned 10 are due to electrocution, and even here one cannot infer that the elephants were targeted because the illegally powered fences installed by the farmers were meant to prevent wild boars though elephants do die in the process. But very few were intended to kill elephants,” said Ms. Sashwathi Mishra.

Rail barricades

On whether the installation of rail barricades had helped reduce conflict and elephant deaths due to electrocution or other causes, she said it was yet to be studied from that perspective. ‘’The rail barricades are being installed in places of high conflict and sensitive regions in a phase-wise manner. But the elephants move over large distances and can still enter human landscape creating a conflict situation,” she added.

The Forest Department’s decision to upload mortality details followed a memorandum by wildlife conservationist Giridhar Kulkarni. He pointed out that the Elephant Task Force constituted by the State government as per the directive by the High Court of Karnataka, had recommended that elephant mortality details be uploaded in a separate section of the Forest Department’s website.

Though this was accepted by the State, it had not implemented the same all these years. In addition, a circular was issued by the office of the PCCF (Wildlife) in September 2013 to upload the details of wildlife mortality, including post-mortem report, and this has now been complied with.

Greater transparency

Mr. Kulkarni said this was a positive development as it was pending since 2013. ‘’This initiative would bring transparency and will also help the Forest Department in gaining public support for wildlife conservation,’’ he said.

Mr. Kulkarni expressed hope that details of wildlife mortality along with post-mortem report not just for elephants but of other major species would also be uploaded soon in the public domain.

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