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Elephants Herd Electrocuted In India

Assam has India's largest population of Asian elephants (pictured), estimated at around 5,300, according to a 2002 wildlife census.
by Staff Writers
Guwahati (AFP) India, Nov 13, 2006
Three wild elephants were electrocuted after apparently wandering into a high-tension electricity line in India's northeastern state of Assam, a wildlife official said Monday. The three were part of a herd of about 35 elephants that had strayed into the Behali tea plantation, about 230 kilometres (142 miles) north of Guwahati, Assam's main city.

"The high tension wire first electrocuted an adult female elephant and then two of her calves as they tried to rescue her. In the process all the three died," Chandan Bora, Divisional Forest Officer, told AFP by telephone.

"It was a touching sight when the rest of the herd surrounded the dead elephants, trumpeting at times and licking them frequently."

The herd retreated from the accident site only after sunset on Sunday.

Bora said his department was still investigating whether the animals were killed accidentally or whether they had met with foul play.

Wildlife experts say increasing encroachment by people into elephant habitat has reached alarming proportions and that this was causing the animals to stray into human settlements in search of food.

Elephants have killed 239 people in Assam in the past five years while 265 elephants have died during the same period, many of them victims of retaliation by people, according to a wildlife department report issued last month.

Assam has India's largest population of Asian elephants, estimated at around 5,300, according to a 2002 wildlife census.

earlier related report
At least 1,000 orangutans killed in Indonesian fires
Jakarta (AFP) Nov 13 - At least 1,000 orangutans are estimated to have been killed by fires and land clearing in Indonesia this year, a wildlife expert said here Monday. Willie Smits from the Gibbon Foundation said the fires that swept Borneo during the dry season and the intensive drive to create palm oil plantations have either killed the orangutans or driven them closer to human settlement, where they are killed as pests.

"A thousand is a minimum estimate," said Smits, a founder of the Borneo Orangutan Survival (BOS) project that operates on the Indonesian part of the island.

Trafficking of Orangutans also presents a continuing threat, with animals from Borneo being smuggled to various parts of the globe, Smits said.

Orangutans are a protected species, the only great apes living outside of Africa, and can only be found on the islands of Borneo and Sumatra.

In 2002 a study estimated that just 56,000 orangutans lived on Borneo and 7,000 in Sumatra.

Only one in three orangutan young are estimated to live, lessening the long-term chance of survival for the species.

"If they are to survive, we have to deal with this forest fires and palm oil plantations," Smits said.

The BOS says it rescued 137 injured orangutans in Central Kalimantan region alone during the fire season, and found the remains of scores of others.

"It is only a small fraction. We are not looking at all other areas where BOS is not operating," said Smits.

Large parts of Sumatra and Borneo have been set ablaze in recent months, an ecological disaster caused by illegal land-clearing fires ahead of the upcoming planting season. Weak enforcement of the law has allowed the practice to continue.

Smouldering underground fires in peatbogs and in subterranean coal veins are particulary hard to extinguish and can burn undetected for months.

Source: Agence France-Presse

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