Herd of elephants accidentally electrocuted in Botswana
By Mpho Tebele
Gaborone – At least nine elephants were electrocuted in a fatal accident this week after they knocked down an electric pole in Dukwi village in northern Botswana.
Reports indicate that the herd is believed to have broken out of the north-eastern Makgadikgadi Pans Game Reserve and strayed into a nearby village of Dukwi.
The director of Wildlife and National Parks, Otisitswe Tiroyamodimo, confirmed the incident saying the elephants knocked down overhead power lines while trying to access water from a pond.
“They were trying to access water from a damaged pipe that is supplying water from the pond to the village and they were electrocuted when they knocked down power lines, which fell into the gushing pool of water,” he said.
Chief of Dukwi village, Kelethusitse Mosweu, said one of the elephants brought down the electricity pole, which resulted in the transmission cables falling on the entire herd.
“We were informed by rangers from the Ministry of Environment, Wildlife and Tourism about the tragic accident. We went there and found all the animals dead,” he said adding that he had been aware that there were elephants roaming aimless near his village.
Botswana Power Corporation (BPC) said in a statement that it found eight dead elephants underneath the power line while one was alive and the corporation made efforts to save the one elephant by switching off supply to the distribution line.
However, the BPC said, upon its 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 – two 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 five metres away,” the statement said.
“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,” the power company said.
This therefore, BPC said, 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,” reads the statement.
The corporation said 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.”
Recent data indicates that Botswana has the biggest population of elephants in Africa believed to be more than 150,000.