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Vertical barriers turn dangerous for elephants in southern states

BENGALURU: Vertical barriers are making life hell for elephants, especially calves, when they cross roads and highways in Karnataka, Tamil Nadu and Kerala. 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, which supports one of the largest elephant populations in India and is also home to a diverse range of flora and fauna.

A young calf struggled to climb a road barrier in Nadugani Ghat Road near Vazhikkadavu in the Nilambur corridor area even as truck drivers stopped their vehicles. However, after some time, finally, its watchful mother came to help its baby to cross over the tall barrier. But this is one such case that has come to light. Calling for wildlife-friendly roads with the removal of high medians and walls in forest areas, activists said in the last few months, incidents have come to light with many elephants and their young ones struggling to cross high barriers. Such eventualities should have been anticipated when constructing vertical intrusions in elephant country.

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.” “It is stressful for the family and the babies and one should remember they have the right to passage,” adds wildlife veterinarian Dr H S Prayag. Governments should get together to ensure safe and barrier free roads in this unique landscape of three states. Recently, incidents of elephants getting stuck in high medians, high walls, rail barriers and also getting electrocuted have increased in the southern states and the Centre should take an urgent call on this, opine elephant experts. In Karnataka, high walls have been constructed in the road that traverses the Kudremukh National Park and has time and again, resulted in road kills.

A young tusker was killed on Thursday in Mudumalai area when it was electrocuted due to high-voltage electric fencing just next to a forest. “Atrocities against elephants continue in the country while Project Elephant officials sit mum doing nothing,” a concerned conservationist adds. A forest official adds, “The construction of such guard barriers in elephant country of the south is proving to be dangerous for the survival of elephants. We need special care in wildlife areas and an urgent think over for making roads safe for pachyderms in the Mysore-Nilgiri Biosphere landscape.”

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