Assam Elephants Death- Lighting may be the Cause.

14 May 2021.

 18 elephants died in the Bamuni hillock in the Kundoli Proposed Reserve Forest under the Kathiatoli range, situated close to the border of Nagaon and Karbi Anglong districts recently.

Details of the incident:

  • The Barmuni hill, where the lightning struck and killed the elephants do not have thick vegetation. It is barren. There is no single tall tree to take the lightning..
  • The samples of the elephants were sent for microbiological and toxicological examination.
  • This was because there were claims that the elephants may have died due to poisoning of pesticides and insecticides used in Tea gardens.
  • However, it has now been concluded that the elephants died of lightning.
  • A burnt tree was found split down in the middle indicating that the region was struck by lightning.
  • The elephants had charred bellies, burnt ears and burn marks on the scapular region.

How does the lightening strike?

 Apart from direct strike, there are other ways lightning can kill:

1.Side flash, where current bounces off a bigger object and affects those close by.

2.Ground current, where the current flows along the ground surface and affects even those who are outside the area of the strike.

Since the animals were scattered, this is possibly what happened on the stormy night.

Conservation Concerns:

  • According to Guwahati-based elephant expert and conservationist the entire episode points to the rapid destruction of elephant habitat in Assam.
  • Environmental activists in Assam  point out  that the site where the animals have died is close to the Mikir Bamuni cluster of villages.
  • This is  a disputed site where, since mid-2020, resident locals of the Adivasi and Karbi communities have been protesting the move of a private company to build a 16 MW solar power plant on 276 bighas of their land.
  • A Fact Finding Committee of Delhi Solidarity Group that works on social justice and social movements visited the Mikir Bamuni grant site .
  • According to them the area was part of an elephant corridor and an ecologically sensitive area. As elephants crossed through the village, their passage was blocked by the solar plant.

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