Guwahati, Jun 3: Assam Environment Minister Parimal Suklabaidya on Thursday said reports received from different agencies and experts, coupled with findings of the investigation officer, have indicated that the recent death of 18 elephants in a proposed reserve forest was caused by "accidental electrocution due to lightning".
Suklabaidya, addressing a press meet here, said the administration made the deduction, after taking into consideration the findings of different agencies, including the post-mortem report that was prepared by a team of ten doctors, and data obtained from the state forensic laboratory, meteorological department along with comments and views of national and international experts. The sudden death of the elephants at Kundoli Proposed Reserve Forest may not be "attributed to retaliatory killing by poisoning or any deadly disease but due to the accidental electrocution by lightning that occurred on the fateful day of May 12", he said.
The minister, who had ordered an inquiry following his visit to the site of the incident on May 14, said that the investigation officer has submitted a detailed report to the chief wildlife warden of Assam on Thursday, and it suggests that no foul play was involved, such as conscious attempt of electrocution, revenge killing and poisoning. Referring to the post-mortem report, he further said that the available history, detailed study of the circumstantial evidence of the site, study of gross and histopathological lesions, laboratory reports nullify the presence of Anthrax-like bacilli and any toxins or its metabolites in the submitted samples.
Also, in correlation with the available meteorological data, the 18 elephants that were found dead in the Kundali Hills appear to be victims of electrocution by lightning, the forest and environment minister said. Experts such as Rhino Recovery Fund Director Dr Markus Hofmeyr and Chair of Asian Elephant Specialist Group, Vivek Menon, have also made similar suggestions, Suklabaidya stated. A copy of the investigation report has been sent to the divisional forest officer, Nagaon Division, for submitting it in a relevant court as the range officer of the Kathiatoli range, under which the area falls, had registered an offence under Section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act (prohibition of hunting), and the Chief Judicial Magistrate in the district was accordingly informed.
Earlier, on May 15, a thorough examination of the elephant carcasses, found at Bamuni Pahar in Nagaon district, was carried out, and based on circumstantial evidence, a team of experts had suggested that the cause of their death could be lightning strikes. Suklabaidya had visited the site and ordered an enquiry into the death of the elephants by a committee headed by Deputy Conservator of Forest K K Deori.