Vaccination drive near Assam forest after anthrax detection in wild elephant


GUWAHATI: Amid fears of possible anthrax spread among animals following the detection of the disease in a wild elephant at the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary in Upper Assam, the forest department on Thursday embarked on a vaccination drive to prevent infections in other animals of the wildlife sanctuary and the domestic livestock in the vicinity.

A female elephant, among the two, found dead last week at different sites inside the Dehing Patkai Wildlife Sanctuary in Upper Assam, had tested positive for anthrax last Tuesday.

“The vaccination drive (covering a 5-kilometre radius from where they found the carcasses) began this morning with about 3,000 vaccines being brought from Guwahati. They also held an awareness meeting among the villagers living in the wildlife sanctuary’s vicinity,” Dibrugarh divisional forest officer Pradipta Baruah told this correspondent on Thursday.

A thorough search is being conducted to determine whether there are more carcasses of wild elephants in the wildlife sanctuary.

“We found no other carcasses so far,” Baruah said.

Anthrax is a spore-forming bacteria called ‘Bacillus anthracis’, leading to fatality within a few hours in animals.

Officials say that it could be the first confirmed case of anthrax in wild elephants in the state.

“There have been cases of anthrax infections in livestock. We detected cases of the disease in cattle in the Joypore area in Naharkatiya six to seven years back. But this could be the first confirmed case of the disease in wild elephants in Assam,” Dr Khanin Changmai, a veterinary surgeon with the Wildlife Trust of India (WTI) based in Tinsukia, told this correspondent.

“We had conducted an autopsy on both the elephants, along with veterinarians from the state forest department. Samples were sent to the department of microbiology, College of Veterinary Science, Khanapara, and the autopsy result of the second elephant is being awaited. We should be getting the result by tomorrow or day after,” Changmai said.

The WTI official said the modus operandi of finding the source of the infection, which is very crucial, was being discussed with the state forest officials as there could be more carcasses inside the wildlife sanctuary.

Sources said that one elephant, aged between 8 and 10 years, died in the Tarajan area on December 3, while another about 18 and 20 years died at Namsang on December 5.

The forest department had burnt the carcasses and then fenced an area of 20 metres at both the sites so that other animals cannot come near them and get infected.

(Edited by Andre Kongri)