Elephant Electrocuted by High-Tension Line in Herd’s Path

An elephant was electrocuted by a high-power electric line early on Wednesday in a village in Preah Sihanouk province frequented by the animals, according to provincial authorities.

Eath Virak, chief of police in Kompong Seila district’s O’bakrotes commune, said workers on a durian plantation found the body of the elephant—a male estimated to be in its 40s—next to the inactive electric wire and a felled electric pole.

Rangers examine the body of an elephant that died after walking through a high-power electric line on Wednesday morning. (Wildlife Alliance)

After speaking with villagers, Mr. Virak said the elephant was likely killed early on Wednesday morning after it attempted to walk through the line while it was still active.

“At midnight, there was a sound of an elephant wailing…and also an electricity blackout,” he said.

According to a video posted online by environmental NGO Wildlife Alliance, the elephant was walking with two calves. If electricity had not been cut when it hit the fence, more elephants could have been killed, a villager tells rangers in the video.

The body was turned over to Wildlife Alliance, which will bury the elephant at the Phnom Tamao Wildlife Center in Takeo province, according to the post.

Elephants frequently visit the district, destroying crops and nudging electric poles, said Huot Chanthy, Kompong Seila district police chief. Villagers sometimes set off firecrackers to scare the elephants away, but they inevitably returned after a few days, he added.

The police chief said he had reported the regular elephant activity to local rangers working with Wildlife Alliance, but did not know if any protective measures had been implemented.

Chem Meun, head of a provincial environment department post in Steng Chral village, said the high-tension electric line running through Kompong Seila lies in the elephants’ natural path when they come down the mountain about four times a month.

Thomas Gray, director of science for Wildlife Alliance, said the fatal intersection of wildlife corridors and human infrastructure was still rare in Cambodia, but that similar situations are a huge problem globally.

“Unless there’s a proper comprehensive land use planning situation, this kind of situation and the opposite, where elephants kill people, will continue to happen,” he said.

Jemma Bullock, program manager for the Elephant Valley Project in Mondolkiri, said via email that the companies operating the electric lines should surround each transmission tower with a cheap, non-lethal electric fence to repel the elephants.

sony@cambodiadaily.com, keetonolsen@cambodiadaily.com

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