Four elephants electrocuted in India

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SHILONG, November 22 (RIA Novosti) - Four wild Asiatic elephants, three females and a calf, have been electrocuted in India's northeast Meghalaya state, local media said on Thursday.

The four elephants died after becoming entangled in high-tension live wires, placed five feet above the ground, in the remote forest area of Paham Umdoh.

''Due to the drooping cables even the villagers feel threatened. When we go to collect firewood, they will kill us one day,'' the NDTV TV channel quotes D. K. Lyndoh, the headman at a nearby village.

In India electrocution is the main killer of elephants, which has claimed nearly 200 lives in the past four years. It is also the main threat to the world's largest population of giant mammals in the states of Assam and Meghalaya, with 33 elephants killed this year alone.

The deadly accident, which is the second in less than a month, made local conservation authorities urge the power company, Meghalaya State Electricity Board, to lay cables without putting the animal's lives at risk. Legislators have raised the issue in the Meghalaya assembly, but without any response from the power company.

The rules for laying high-tension wires in animal sanctuaries are quite strict, but despite regular inspections, forest department officials often complain about the "blatant disregard for rules," as electricity companies often fail to provide poles with spikes to deter the animals.

In late October, six wild Asiatic elephants, which had caused havoc after drinking rice beer, were electrocuted. The deaths happened when an adult male tried to rub his back against a high-voltage electric pole, which subsequently caved in under his weight, causing the live wires to come crashing down on his back. Five more elephants from the herd, including three calves, then rushed to his rescue, each subsequently receiving a fatal electric shock.

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