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A Look At Recent Human-Elephant Conflicts In India

India lost 494 elephants to train accidents, electrocution, poaching and poisoning over the past five years, according to the data provided by the Union Environment Ministry in Parliament last year.

This photo show elephants standing by a 15-year-old pregnant wild elephant who died after suffering injuries, in Velliyar River, Palakkad district of Kerala state.
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Earlier this month, a wild adult female elephant succumed to its injuries in the Rajapara area under the Bondapara Forest Range in Assam after being trapped for four weeks. 

This is the latest in the series of such cases over the past few years. It has put the focus back on rising cases of human-elephant conflicts in the country.  

In fact, India lost 494 elephants to train accidents, electrocution, poaching and poisoning over the past five years, according to the data provided by the Union Environment Ministry in Parliament last year. 

The train-linked elephant deaths included 27 in Assam, 17 in Odisha, and 13 in Bengal, while electrocution killed 69 elephants in Assam, 63 in Odisha, and 50 in Tamil Nadu, according to the data released by the ministry.

Here are some recent mishaps that has caused the deaths of elephants:

In an incident that sparked nationwide outrage, a pregnant elephant died in Kerala’s Palakkad district after she was fed a pineapple stuffed with fireworks in 2020.  The fruit exploded in her mouth, and broke her jaw, rendering her unable to eat. She wandered around for the next few days. However, by the time the rescue team arrived, she died.

Electrocution was one of the major causes for the deaths of these animals. Just a few days ago, three adult female elephants were electrocuted by an illegal electric farm fence near a village in Marandahalli, Tamil Nadu late on March 6.

In fact, in one of the biggest elephant electrocution tragedies in Odisha, in October 2018, a big herd of elephants walking past Kamalanga village in Dhenkanal came in contact with a high-voltage live wire. Seven of them perished. 

In a similar case of electrocution, a male elephant in Tamil Nadu's Tirunelveli district was electrocuted while it was attempting to uproot a palm tree on December 26. The tree fell onto an electric line, resulting in the elephant's death. 

Information furnished by the Forest and Environment department before the Odisha state assembly showed that between 2011-12 and 2021-22, about 935 elephants died in Odisha and a whopping 135 of those casualties were caused by electrocution alone. Only Assam stands as a rival in the sheer volume of elephant electrocution deaths.

In a span of 11 days in October last year in Assam, seven elephants died after being hit by speeding trains, food poisoning attacks and deliberate electrocution. One female elephant and her calf were killed after being hit by the Rajdhani Express.

In another case of elephants losing their lives on train tracks, two such deaths were reported from the Walayar area in Kerala in 2022 after a gap of nearly three years.

While India lost most of its elephants due to electrocution and trains rather than poaching, instances of the animals being gunned on haven’t gone unnoticed.

A wild male elephant was shot down in the Hindol forest range of Odisha’s Dhenkanal district February 10, 2021 and its tusks hacked off during a brutal attack by poachers, officials said, according to a report by Down To Earth.

A group of poachers using guns were believed to have attacked the elephant from close range. As a result, around 10 bullets pierced the animal’s body. 

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