Erode (TN): Almost two elephants died every month in the district during 2011 with a majority of the 23 deaths occurring due to natural causes, a senior forest official said.

During this year, a total of 23 elephants died in the district comprising two forest divisions of Erode and Sathyamangalam which are home to around 1,200 elephants, Erode Conservator of Forests D Arun told reporters here.

"Of this, three elephants died due to electrocution, one was killed by poachers while 19 others died of natural causes (illness)," he said last evening.

As regards eletrocution caused by illegal high-tension electric fence put up by farmers, he said six farmers have been arrested and cases registered against them for the death of three elephants.

He said in view of the large population of elephants in the forest areas of the district, the department in a bid to avoid man-animal conflict had erected solar-power fencing to a total length of 239 km which would prevent entry of the pachyderms into agricultural lands on forest fringes.

Solar fencing will give the animals a short, sharp but safe shock that would prevent them venturing into the area.

Warning that putting up illegal electrical fencing would attract a maximum punishment of seven years imprisonment, Arun said the department would extend the fencing by 11 more kms soon.

Besides the solar fencing, the forest department also proposed to dig trenches at a cost of Rs 1.51 crore during next year to prevent the elephants from entering human habitats.