Assam elephant deaths caused by lightning, reveals probe report

The authorised team of veterinarians had submitted a detailed post-mortem report on May 27, 2021.


The final report of the investigation into the deaths of 18 wild elephants in Nagaon forest division on May 13 stated that a “strong negative lightning flash with a peak current of 39,000 amperes” had struck the herd and caused the fatalities.

Assam forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya, while making the report public on Thursday, said that the autopsy report of the elephant samples suggested that the fatalities might not be attributed to any infectious pathological agent, toxin or poison.

“The death of 18 elephants due to lightning has been established with clinching evidence. The exhaustive report incorporating post mortem and reports from concerned agencies have proved beyond doubt that lightning caused the death of a herd of elephants,” Suklabaidya said.

The investigation report suggested that “there does not appear to be any foul play such as the conscious attempt of electrocution, revenge killing, poisoning, anthrax outbreak etc. Hence it can be deduced from the evidence available, which point to the cause of death of the 18 elephants by accidental electrocution due to lightning”.

The herd of 18 elephants was found dead atop a hill in the Kandali reserve forest area under Kathiatoli forest range last month, triggering widespread speculation and prompting the government to engage multiple agencies to investigate the deaths.

The views and comments of both national and international experts and organisations were also sought based on the preliminary report of a team of veterinarians that was submitted on May 14 and photographic evidence collected at the site.

The office of the Animal Health Care Centre (AHCC), North Eastern Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (NERDDL), state animal husbandry and veterinary department had submitted its autopsy report on Wednesday.

The authorised team of veterinarians had submitted a detailed post-mortem report on May 27, 2021.

“From the available history, detailed study of the circumstantial evidence at the site, the study of gross and histopathological lesions, laboratory reports nullifying the presence of anthrax-like bacilli and any toxins or its metabolites in the submitted samples and correlation with the available meteorological data that prevailed during that period, in our opinion, the 18 elephants that were found dead in the Kandali hills have died due to electrocution by lightning,” the report stated.

(Edited by Christopher Gatphoh)

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