Another translocated radio-collared tigress from Bramhapuri — aged about three years — was found electrocuted near Maroda village in Chaprala Wildlife Sanctuary in Gadchiroli district on Friday, taking the number of radio-collared tigers getting electrocuted in Vidarbha in the past six months to three, raising questions about the growing menace of electrocution near wildlife-rich areas.
The tigress, nicknamed Ravina, was found dead near the carcass of a wild pig in a field near Maroda village.
“We got the mortality signal from the radio-collar of the tigress around 2.30 am. The signal is received after four hours of immobility, which means the tigress may have died around 10.30 pm on Thursday,” said Bilal Habib, Wildlife Institute of India (WII) scientist who radio-collared the tigress when she was picked up from the Bramhapuri landscape straddling Chandrapur and Gadchiroli districts on August 28.
The tigress had been tranquilised and translocated from Wadsa division forest in Gadchiroli district following a fatal attack on two persons, and causing grievous hurt to another.
“Apparently, the live wire was put in the farm not for crop protection but for deliberate poaching since it was hung from a 11-KV power supply line. For crop protection, farmers use a 240 volt line connected to their agricultural pumps,” sources present at the spot said.
They added, “While there was an electrocution mark on the tigress’ head, there was none on the pig. Also they were lying about 15 metre from the wire outside the farm.”
“The tigress had adjusted herself well with her home and had been killing her natural preys instead of cattle. It is sad that the successful translocation story had this tragic end,” said Habib.
Last month, a tigress, picked up from Bramhapuri forest in July and translocated to Bor Wildlife Sanctuary in Wardha district, was electrocuted in a farm on the actuary periphery even as a shooting-come-tranquilising team was tracking it for possible capture. In April, Srinivasan, the two-year-old cub of the famous Umred-Karhandla Sanctuary tiger, Jai, was also found electrocuted in Nagbhid tehsil of Chandrapur district. A year earlier, Jai, a tourist attraction, had gone missing mysteriously. After prolonged denial, officials now believe he too may have been electrocuted.
An emergent meeting was held here last month following the death of the Bor tigress to discuss measures to curb the growing menace of electrocution.
Among the measures discussed was to switch off power supply in about 150 most probable problem villages around various wildlife areas. But since that could attract a public outcry, it was also suggested that there should be separate power supply lines for domestic and agricultural use so that only the latter could be tripped for the night since the electrocution incidents happen generally during nights. But for short term, the electricity officials said they could think of enforcing load-shedding during night instead of day time.
One of the suggestions was from Nitin Desai, an expert on poaching, of the Wildlife Protection Society of India, who said farmers could be provided with adapter-like devices to reduce the current in the live wire so that the animals only get deterred and do not die.
“This would also help farmers save crops without having to live under the shadow of legal action since the new arrangement could be fully authorised by the government,” said Desai.
Habib, however, says, “Laying of such authorised electric fences would potentially cut the wildlife corridors from tiger landscapes hindering wildlife movement across them.”
Desai says, “Use of illegal power fences by farmers is already very widespread and hasn’t caused any hindrance in the corridor. The problem occurs when soft-footed animals like tigers come in contact with 240 volt current that farmers use to check entry of herbivores. Herbivores have hooves that act as insulators when they come in contact with the 240-volt current. The herbivores thus get only a shock and don’t die. But tigers have soft feet and hence can die immediately after coming in contact even with a 240-volt current.”
Desai also points out a difference between the illegal 240-volt power fences erected by farmers to protect their crop and putting up of live wires using hooks hung from 11-KV lines. “The latter is used to poach animals and the former to protect crop,” he says.
Both Habib and Desai agree that farmers’ interest must be protected if tigers have to be protected.
Meanwhile, officials from the the electricity and forest departments have decided to carry out joint awareness campaigns in 150 critical villages against illegal power fencing.
No forest official was available throughout the day to provide information about the incident.