Animal lovers worried over mysterious deaths of elephants  

Vertical barriers are making life hell for elephants, especially calves, when they cross roads and highways in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. In India alone, almost 15 elephants died in recent days, it is said and most of them are said to be young ones.

This has come at a time when more than 350 elephants have mysteriously died in northern Botswana over the past two months. Scientists describe this as a conservation disaster. Botswanans view the loss as a blow to the national tourism economy and in many places, a loss to the community.

Poaching has been ruled out as the dead elephants were found with their tusks in the famous Okavango Delta, which is home to an estimated 15,000 elephants. Botswana as a whole has 130,000 elephants.

The “ongoing investigations into the deaths of the elephants have revealed no evidence of poaching so far,” Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, Conservation and Tourism, said.

Indeed, the deaths are presenting somewhat of a mystery as the carcasses appear to be undisturbed, including untouched ivory tusks. Of those discovered so far, some lay on their knees and faces (rather than on their side), suggesting sudden death, although there are also reports of elephants looking disoriented and even walking in circles.

The tusks of the dead elephants are still in place and, as yet, no other species have died under similar circumstances. The first deaths were reported in March, but significant numbers were only recorded from May onwards.

The heartrending visual of a baby elephant trying to cross a vertical barrier in the Nadugani Ghats calls for introspection and re-think on installing such intrusions in elephant corridors of the Mysore-Nilgiri Biosphere Landscape.

Former minister Jairam Ramesh said, “This shows why our infrastructure should be constructed with utmost thought and concern for wildlife. I appreciate the kindness of the truck drivers who waited till the elephants passed and did not add to their anxiety.”  Wildlife veterinarian Dr H S Prayag says, “It is stressful for the family and the babies and one should remember they have the right to passage.”