Eighteen endangered elephants were found dead in an Indian forest preserve in the northeastern state of Assam. While a lighting strike is to blame for the deaths, authorities in India are investigating the situation.
A local forest ranger said he saw burnt trees in the area from the lighting strikes, but some wildlife advocates are questioning the elephants’ cause of death.
“Poisoning could be behind the death of the elephants,” Soumyadeep Datt, a conservationist who works for the organization Nature’s Beckon, said. “We have to wait for the autopsy report, which the forest department will do soon.”
Villagers found 14 elephants dead in the Kundoli reserve forest, Al Jazeera reported, while 4 more dead elephants were found scattered around the foothills of the reserve, MK Yadava, a local wildlife official, said.
The elephants were listed an endangered species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature Red List. According to AP, there are close to 50,000 Asian elephants in the wild, with a population of 6,000 in Assam.
“We will unravel the exact reason behind their tragic death soon,” Datt said.