Reason for the death
According to reports, the elephant may have drowned before passing away. However, the exact cause is still being investigated.
“We suspected that the elephant died due to drowning in the river. Right now, we cannot say the exact cause of his death. After the postmortem report we can say how the elephant died,” said a forest official.
Poachers, however, are suspected by environmentalists of poisoning the elephant.
It’s noteworthy that many elephants died last year in the national park from anthrax.
The jumbo’s body has been sent for a post mortem report, and the cause of death will be made public then.
“Blood was noticed coming out from the elephant’s mouth. We suspected that the elephant was poisoned by poachers. Dehing-Patkai National Park has a big elephant population and poachers enter the forest to hunt elephants,” said Devojit Moran, an environmentalist.
He said, “A few years ago many elephants were killed by poachers at Lakhipathar forest. The forest department should keep an eye on the illegal activities going on in the forest. Recently, Dehing-Patkai was upgraded as National Park but many villagers living in the vicinity of the forest don’t know. The forest department should involve the villagers to check illegal activities in the forest.”
“Last year we collected samples from dead elephants and found anthrax. So, right now we can’t say anything because we are waiting for the postmortem report,” said a forest official.
Recent such case
In May 2021, Lightning killed 18 wild elephants in Assam’s Nagaon district.
An autopsy report found that on May 13, a powerful negative lightning flash with a peak current of 39,000 amps killed 18 elephants in Kandali Proposed Reserve Forest in central Assam’s Nagaon district.
There was no foul play, according to Assam Environment and Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya, who also ruled out revenge killings and poisoning as possibilities.
The North Eastern Regional Disease Diagnostic Laboratory (NERDDL) in Guwahati, with meteorological inputs from the North East Satellite Application Centre in Umiam, Meghalaya, also denied any anthrax outbreak.
“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 found dead in the Kandali hills have died due to electrocution by lightning,” a detailed report submitted the vet team on May 27 said.
“As per in situ spot evidence, the death of the elephants in the herd may not be attributed to any infectious pathological agent or any toxin or poison,” the NERDDL report on June 2 concluded.
Save Dehing Patkai movement
In April, the National Board for Wildlife (NBWL) approved a coal-mining project in the Saleki reserve forest, which is a part of the Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve, as the nation entered another extended lockdown to stop the spread of COVID-19. Prakash Javedkar, Chairman of NBWL and India’s Minister of Forest, Environment, and Climate Change, presided over a video conference during which the announcement was made.
Protests by environmentalists have erupted in response to this decision, with Guwahati University students starting an online campaign to save Dehing Patkai, Assam’s only rainforest and the ‘Amazon of the East.’
‘The protestors are urging the Prime Minister of India, the Minister of Environment, Forest and Climate Change of India, the Chief Minister of Assam, and the NBWL to stop any current and future coal mining project in Saleki and the whole of Dehing Patkai Elephant Reserve, stating that legal and illegal coal extraction is having and will have catastrophic consequences for the whole ecosystem of the region’, according to the reports of Sentinel Assam.
A petition drive has been started by several environmental NGOs and activists.
According to the study, the Dehing Patkai region is already under threat from high-polluting industries like coal mines, oil refineries, and gas drilling that harm the region’s biodiversity.
“Though the NBWL has allowed the coal mining project on April 7, 2020, illegal mining of coal has been going by the coal mafias in the forest for long affecting the biodiversity of this virgin forestland,” environmental activists reportedly claimed.