Eighteen remains of elephants have been found in the jungles of the state of Assam in northeastern India, authorities said Friday, launching an investigation into the causes of their deaths. Prior to lightning.
Assam’s forestry minister Parimal Suklabaidya said he was deeply saddened by the deaths of those animals.
According to him, the elephants could have been killed by lightning that struck the Kandali Proposed Reserve Forest in Nagaon County on the night from Wednesday to Thursday.
“It is extremely painful to see elephants die like this. But we have to wait for the post mortem report to know the exact cause of their deaths,” he told reporters on the spot, about 150 kilometers south. Guwahati, the capital of the state.
Assam’s chief minister, Himanta Biswa Sarma, said in a statement that he was concerned about the deaths of “so many elephants”.
The Assam government sent a team of veterinarians to the Bamuni Hills region, where the elephants died under still mysterious circumstances.
Veterinarians will autopsy dead elephants and report to authorities.
But some conservatives suspect that so many beasts could have been shot down at the same time.
According to prominent environmentalist Assam, Soumyadeep Datti, who carefully observed the photos spread by the media, the lightning hypothesis should be ruled out.
“The poison could be behind the deaths of these elephants,” said Soumyadeep Datta, who heads the Natures’Beckon conservation organization.
“If the elephants did not die of thunder, the government must ensure that the perpetrators (…) are brought to justice,” Mr Datta continued, eager to publish an autopsy report judging by the “worrying” affair.
“This kind of incident in which wild elephants are killed by lightning has never happened in Assam or northeastern India. If it is killing, action must be taken immediately. Take action to arrest the culprits,” he said.
Bibhab Talukder, also an environmentalist, leader of the Aaranyak wildlife organization, for his part does not rule out the lightning hypothesis.
“I was in contact with activists in Africa (…) who told me that incidents of a similar nature had occurred when lightning was killed by deer herds,” he said.
Almost 30,000 elephants live in India, or about 60% of the wild elephant population in Asia.