Mourning elephants pay homage to one of their members

Despite losing crops, farmers bowled over by jumbo sentiment

It was mix of sentiment and panic for the villagers of Moghilivaripalle of Bangarupalem mandal, abutting the Koundinya Wildlife Sanctuary, when a 17-member herd of wild elephants in the small hours of Tuesday returned to a farmer’s field to ‘pay homage’ to one of their members, which was electrocuted the previous midnight (Sunday-Monday) and got buried there, after coming in live contact with a 11 KV power cable.

Among the 18-member herd, one huge elephant strayed away and headed towards a green patch of paddy, but was electrocuted while passing under a sagging power cable. It was a miraculous escape for the 17 others, when they kept themselves away at another corner. Luckily, some elephant trackers close to the spot could divert the jumbo path away from the power cable.

Exactly 24 hours after the electrocution of their member, the massive herd reached the burial mound in the field and kept circling around the spot, followed by stamping of the mud and trumpeting. Around 3 a.m. (Tuesday), the herd left the place, as their trumpeting took an elegiac note, as against the regular resonance evoking panic among farmers. Paddy crop in a big stretch on the jumbo path was crushed between the forest fringe and burial spot.

Forest Range Officer (Palamaner) K. Madhan Mohan Reddy told The Hindu generally whenever an elephant dies in the fields, the carcass would be shifted deep inside the forest and buried. “In this episode, the terrain was very steep, and recent rains had rendered the soil into a slippery loam. Under these tough conditions, we had performed burial in the farmer’s land itself,” he said.

“The sentiments of the elephants had moved not only the forest personnel, but also the farmers, who despite suffering crop damage have not made a complaint of it. We are just bowled over by their gesture. The 17-member herd returned to the spot, trumpeting while circling round the mound and paid tribute to their deceased member. After two hours, the herd retreated into the forests. Our trackers are thoroughly monitoring their movements,” the FRO said.

The return of the jumbos took place as was exactly predicted by the forest officials. “As per our request, the power was disconnected through all low-lying cables across the fields in the vicinity of the mound. The power officials are now increasing the height of the power lines or shifting the location of the poles,” Mr. Madan Mohan Reddy said.

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