COIMBATORE: The fauna-rich Sathyamangalam forest has witnessed two casualties in the last one week. Two Schedule-1 animals — a 30-year-old female wild elephant and an Indian Guar — were killed on Hasanur-Mysore National Highway 209 after being hit by speeding vehicles.
The elephant was mowed down by a Karnataka State Road Transport Corporation (KSRTC) bus, bound for Mysore from Coimbatore. The elephant was hit when crossing the road. Earlier in an accident on January 21, an Indian Gaur died after it was hit by a speeding jeep on the Hasanur-Thalavadi route in the same region.
Environmentalists say these are not isolated cases in the Sathyamangalam forest in Erode. Once the den of forest brigand Veerappan, the place is now a habitat for gaurs and elephants.
“Around two months ago, a leopard was killed in an accident. Recently, at least four mammals were also killed. This could signal a dangerous trend, as there are plans to convert Sathyamangalam forest into a tiger reserve,” a wildlife activist said.
As per the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, any incidents involving Schedule-1 animals should be booked by the Forest Department and the offender should be remanded in custody. No private justice is permitted by the officials. Spot fines are also not permitted by law. However, according to sources, cases have not been booked for both the above-mentioned incidents.“This violates the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972,” said a wildlife conservationist on condition of anonymity.
Wildlife activist N Lakshminarayanan of Wildlife Conservation Society says, “The incidents reinstate the urgent need to install speed controllers on this highway. The National Highways Authority of India cannot continue being apathetic of such gruesome deaths on the road, threatening the very existence of wildlife of the region. Since most of such incidents take place during the night, it is imperative to stop traffic at least for few hours during the night.”
However, when contacted, Sathyamangalam District Forest Officer N Satheesh said: “Both the cases do not violate the Wildlife Protection Act. In the case of the gaur’s death, the animal had rammed into the Bolero. It is unfortunate. Even the bus that hit the elephant was being driven within the permissible speed limit. The animal was hidden from the visibility behind bamboo shoots.”