As many as 18 wild elephants have been killed in Nagaon district of Assam.
Preliminary investigation suggests that the cause of death was most likely to have been lightning, officials informed on Thursday. But experts said there could be other reasons as well.
Never have so many elephants been killed in a single incident like this in Assam.
“The incident took place at Bamuni area of Barhampur on Wednesday. Our officials got to know about it on Thursday. Teams of forest and veterinary officials are at the spot to take stock of the tragedy,” Nagaon deputy commissioner Kavitha Padmanabham was quoted as saying.
The tragedy took place at Bamuni area of Barhampur, which is an area with small hillocks and forests.
“Preliminary investigation of the spot suggests lightning could be the reason for the deaths. All the elephants killed were adults and sub-adults,” Divisional Forest Officer (Nagaon) Vasanthan said.
Forest officials are of the opinion that the entire herd was close to each other when lightning struck. Four bodies were found at the bottom of a hillock, and the other 14 at the top.
“A tragedy of such scale is unheard of in Assam. It is a big loss. While lightning has been suspected to be the cause, mass poisoning of the pachyderms shouldn’t be ruled out,” said Bibhab Talukdar, a noted elephant expert and CEO of Guwahati-based wildlife NGO Aaranyak.
“Assam has witnessed poisonings of wild elephants in the past, though not on such a large scale. I hope a thorough probe is done to know the exact cause behind the deaths,” he added.
Assam has the second highest number of elephants in India (5719) after Karnataka (6049).