Eighteen elephants of a herd were found dead inside a reserve forest in Assam’s Nagaon district on Thursday morning.Though preliminary investigation by the state forest department suggests that the pachyderms could have been struck by lightning, environmentalists have demanded a thorough probe to find out if there was any foul play.On Thursday night, the forest department set up an investigation team to ascertain the cause of death of the elephants. The team will also inspect the site of the tragedy, including water and salt lick quality.
Chief minister Himanta Biswa Sarma has directed forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya to rush to the spot on Friday to investigate the actual cause of the death.
Principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife) Amit Sahay said, “The incident happened on a hill but bodies of four elephants were found downhill. The remaining 14 were found on the upper side of the hill. Preliminary investigation tells us lightning could be the cause of death and probably the animals were huddled together due to the severe storm on Wednesday. A probe is on to establish the actual cause of death.”
As the bodies were found scattered, environmentalists have demanded a thorough probe to find out if there was any foul play.
Assam chief wildlife warden MK Yadava said he would be leaving for the spot with a team of veterinary doctors early Friday morning and carry out the post mortem.The incident occurred at the proposed Kundoli reserve forest in Kathiatoli range of Nagoan district which is part of the traditional Karbi Anglong foothills elephant habitat. The stretch is being fast encroached upon by human habitation, rubber plantations and tea gardens. Closeby, on the foothills, a solar plant is being constructed by a Delhi-based firm.
Dr Rahul Mahanta of physics department of Cotton University here said thermodynamical character over the Brahmaputra Valley is conducive for strong to severe thunderstorms and thunderstorms occurring early morning could produce explosive events.
“By comparison, more storms occur in the afternoon as solar heating charges a higher number of particles. But these storms are weaker. Typical afternoon lightning might vary from 6,000 to 20,000 amps per ground flash but powerful morning lightning to ground strokes can average 30,000 amps,” he said.Environmentalist Rituraj Phukan, secretary general of Green Guard Nature Organization, said, “Prima facie, the death of at least 18 elephants at Bamuni Nagaon do not appear to be due to the attributed reasons. There are no tell-tale evidences visible in the images and videos circulating on the social media. We have been working in the area since two decades and request a thorough inquiry to assuage the concerns of conservationists.”