Autopsy report rules out foul play in deaths of 18 jumbos in Assam

Express News Service
GUWAHATI: The Assam government has ruled out any foul play, such as a conscious attempt of electrocution, revenge killing, poisoning, anthrax outbreak etc, in the deaths of 18 elephants at the Kundali hills in Nagaon district last month.

“From the available history, detailed study of the circumstantial evidence at the site, 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… died due to electrocution by lightning,” the state’s forest department said on Thursday based on the “diagnosis” of the post-mortem report.

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The autopsy was carried out by a 10-member team of veterinarians and animal experts. As per 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 forest department said.

Earlier, the government had sought the views of national and international experts and organizations based on the preliminary report of the team of veterinarians and photographic evidences collected at the site. Dr Markus Hofmeyr, a wildlife veterinarian who is the Director of Rhino Recovery Fund, and Vivek Menon, Chair, Asian Elephant Specialist Group, IUCN, suggested that the cause of deaths was suspected lightning strike.

Meanwhile, Apurba Ballav Goswami, who is an Assam-based environmentalist and senior journalist, filed an FIR with the police on Thursday holding some senior forest officials and a power company responsible for the alleged choking of the elephant corridor at the site of the incident.

“At the foothills of Bamuni Pahar, there has been a village named Mikir Bamuni Grant village. M/s Azure Power Forty Private Ltd. has been accorded clearance to develop 90MW of solar power by Assam Power Distribution Company Ltd. Of this allocation, the company has chosen to develop a 15 MW installed capacity solar power project over 93 acres of land. However, the village, on which the solar park is developed; is part of an active elephant corridor,” Goswami wrote in the copy of his FIR.

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He said developing the solar plant resulted in the obstruction of habitation and the movement of elephants. The fencing around the solar park compelled the herd to change route and they finally faced the disaster, he claimed.

“A Fact-Finding Committee (FFC) observed that M/s Azure Power Forty Private Ltd has secured land by means, which are in gross variance of law. After careful review of various documents, court proceedings, field observations and interactions with various community members and state officials, the FFC concluded that transfer of land to Azure Power was carried out in violation of key provisions of Assam Fixation of Ceiling on Land Holdings Act, 1956, Assam (Temporarily settled Areas) Tenancy Act, 1971, Assam Land Revenue Re-Assessment Act, 1936, and is contrary to the Assam Land Policy, 2019 and also the Assam Solar Policy, 2017,” he further wrote.