Death of a Sri Lankan icon highlights surge in elephant electrocutions

COLOMBO — He may have had short tusks, but at nearly 3 meters (10 feet) tall, Revatha was the dominant bull in his home range of  Kalawewa in Sri Lanka’s North Central province. Other bull elephants that challenged him for dominance found themselves no match for his might; some even died in their ground-rumbling jousts with Revatha. On March 9, Revatha, aged 45, was killed. But it wasn’t another elephant that dealt the fatal blow. It was an electric fence that had been set up illegally around a cornfield. Electric fences are commonly deployed across Sri Lanka; the country has the highest density of Asian elephants (Elephas maximus) and a correspondingly high rate of human-elephant conflict (HEC). Wildlife-deterring electric fences are meant to stun, not kill, an animal, much less an elephant. But this one, like many in Sri Lanka was wired up directly, and illegally, to the overhead power line, said Sumith Pilapitiya, a former head of the Department of Wildlife Conservation (DWC). When Revatha brushed up against it, it would have been like grabbing onto a live wire strung between pylons, he added. Revatha wasn’t the only one. The same week he died, four other elephants were electrocuted to death in the same region of North Central. “All of them are fully grown males that would be carrying strong genes,” Chandana Jayasinghe, the wildlife veterinary surgeon who conducted Revatha’s post-mortem exam, told Mongabay. Revatha was one of five elephants killed by electrocution in the space of a week…This article was originally published on Mongabay

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