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Botswana elephants shocked to death – update

This image of the electrocuted elephants appeared on Facebook

Sad news out of Botswana is that nine elephant bulls have been electrocuted.

The incident occurred on Monday, September 18, near the Dukwi veterinary check point south east of Nata.

It is apparent that the elephants were heading to a water source, when an overhead power cable fell, or was toppled, coming into contact with the elephants.

The Botswana Power Corporation has put out the following statement:

“The Corporation proactively undertook a 33kV distribution power line assessment on 18 September 2017 following intermittent faults noted at the Dukwi area. The 33kV line running across Dukwi supplies power to Water Utilities Corporation boreholes. The intermittent faults were signified by frequent auto reclosing (on and offs) of the distribution protection system which alerted the Corporation that there could be possible physical contact with the 33kV distribution power line in the area. Evidently so, BPC found eight (8) dead elephants underneath the power line while one (1) was alive and the Corporation made effort to save the one (1) elephant by switching off supply to the distribution line, but unfortunately upon BPC crew’s return from switching off the power line, the remaining elephant had gotten electrocuted.

The elephants are suspected to have tried to walk through the strut pole – 2 poles erected alongside each other connected at the top with a steel bracket forming a shape of a cone – on their way to access the water pond which was about 5m away. As they made their way through the strut pole, they are suspected to have applied force onto the structure, uprooting the strut pole from its original position on a clockwise movement thereby causing breakage of the pole followed by the twisting and bending of the steel bracket. This therefore resulted in severe sagging (lowering) of the 33kV distribution line to about 1.5m to 3m above ground level, posing risk of electrocution to any living thing that could get into contact with the sagged power line, and unfortunately our elephants got electrocuted leading to loss of life.

The Corporation regrets the incident and has been working hand in hand with the Water Utilities Corporation, Department of Veterinary Services, Wildlife Department and the Anti-Poaching Unit teams covering the Dukwi area to ensure that the deceased elephants are safely removed from underneath the power lines without any further risks to both human and wildlife.

Power interruption was never experienced in the Dukwi area despite this unfortunate experience and BPC has reconstructed the strut pole and tightened the sagged power line for continued electricity supply. As a Corporation, we continue to promote safe use of electricity at our homes, farms and business operations at all times as unsafe handling can lead to severe injuries or death. The public is reminded to avoid moving closer/getting into contact with low laying power lines and to always TREAT ALL POWER LINES AS LIVE.”

UPDATE:

Reuters reports that the elephants died after they knocked down overhead power lines while jostling to drink water from a leaking pipe supplying water to villagers, according to the director of Wildlife and National Parks, Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo.

“Investigations are still at a preliminary stage, but what we have discovered so far is that the elephants were helping themselves to water from a damaged supply pipe. The elephants were electrocuted when they knocked down power lines, which fell into the gushing pool of water,” he said.

Botswana has an elephant population of between 150 000 and 200 000, depending on the migration season. Elephants normally live in the wild but often move near human settlements in search of water, in Botswana, a generally arid country.

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