An estimated 36 elephants died in the last 18 months in Coimbatore and Nilgiris Forest divisions, due to acute water shortage, starvation and man-animal conflict.
The major casualties were reported from Nilgiris district, particularly in Mudumalai Tiger Reserve (MTR) range and the number of deaths was an estimate, as it could be more, because some could have gone unnoticed, Forest Department sources said.
The acute shortage of water and monsoon failure not only affected the lives of farmers, but wildlife, particularly elephants in Nilgiris ranges, which used to migrate for food and water to Bandipur and Muthanga forests in Karnataka and Kerala respectively, they said.
At least 26 elephants have died from March 2016 to March 2017 in areas coming under MTR, Gudalur, Pandalur, Cherampadi and another eight in the last two months due to starvation and dehydration, they said.
Six deaths have been reported in the last 15 months, the latest being yesterday, where decomposed bodies of a 12-year-old female elephant and its calf were found near Moyar, they said.
The seven ranges in Coimbatore also reported eight pachyderm deaths, either due to starvation or man-animal conflict in the last four months, the sources said.
There is also threat of wild fires, leading to death of wild animals, including elephants, they said.
Even though the department can make temporary arrangements for water, it is difficult to provide fodder, which is one reason for migration of elephants from State to State leading to man-animal conflict, a senior department official said.
Moreover, alien plants like parthenium were growing in the land, for which water was not not required, which was also the reason for elephants to move to farmers' fields and also urban areas in search of green fodder, the sources said.
There is a huge threat of elephants becoming an endangered species in the long run, say within one decade, in India, if the situation continued, sources said.
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