India: Nearly 300 elephant deaths in Orissa

A herd of wild elephants crossing a road in India
Image caption There is increasing conflict between elephant and people in India

Nearly 300 wild elephants have died in India's Orissa state in the past five years, the state's forest and environment minister has said.

Most of these deaths were caused by accidental electrocution, Bijayshree Routray told Press Trust of India news agency.

Over a third of the elephants were killed by electric shock and hanging electricity wires, he said.

There are around 26,000 wild elephants in India where it is a heritage animal.

"The government has set up a joint committee to monitor elephant deaths," Orissa's Forest and Environment Secretary RK Sharma said.

It will include members from both the forest and environment and energy departments to try and stop the deaths of elephants from accidental electrocutions.

Other causes for the deaths of the jumbos included poaching, poisoning by farmers to prevent them from damaging crops and being run over by trains.

While elephants are worshipped by many in India, shrinking habitat has led to increased conflict with people and the deaths of many of the protected animals.

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