It is a tragedy of elephantine proportions.
Indian forest officers have launched an investigation into the mysterious deaths of 18 wild Asian elephants Thursday, which locals suspect may have been attributable to a large lightning strike on Wednesday, Reuters reported.
“Deeply pained by the death of 18 elephants last night due to massive thunderstorm under Kothiatoli Range in Nagaon,” said a Thursday tweet by Parimal Suklabaidya, the forest minister of Assam, the place the tragedy occurred. He added that he would “be visiting the site tomorrow morning along with PCCF (wildlife) & senior officials to take stock of the situation.”
The state authorities ordered a high-level inquiry into the incident on Friday.
It stays unconfirmed precisely what killed the majestic creatures, however “preliminary report suggests the deaths could be due to lightning — although we need to find out through forensic tests if there could be any other reason, like poisoning or disease,” Suklabaidya instructed Rueters.
However, locals who found the elephants agreed that the animals may have been killed by a lightning strike late on Wednesday, an area forest ranger mentioned, including he had seen burnt timber within the space. The ranger declined to be named as he was not approved to talk to the media.
Fourteen deceased pachyderms had been found atop a hill whereas one other 4 had been scattered concerning the foothills, in line with Assam’s principal chief forest and wildlife conservator Amit Sahay, who arrived on the devastating scene on Thursday, Newsweek reported.
Needless to say officers had been crestfallen over the herd’s loss.
“It is a very saddening incident. This has never happened before in the Assam forest,” a bereaved Suklabaidya instructed Asian News International.
Assam’s former chief Sarbananda Sonowal tweeted that deaths had been “an immense loss to Assam’s wildlife and biodiversity.”
Indeed, the area reportedly homes 6,000 Asian elephants, almost one-fifth of India’s whole pachyderm inhabitants, according to Al Jazeera.