The death of 18 Elephants in Assam
13th May 2021 will be remembered forever as a dark day in the history of environment protection and biodiversity conservation in Assam. The news about the mysterious death of 18 wild Asian Elephants in Bamunipahar, Nagaon district was reported in local media for the first time on 13th May.
According to the initial reports, local villagers of the area discovered the elephant carcasses in their routine tour to collect firewood from the hill forest on 12th May 2021. They found 4 elephant carcasses at the foothill of the hill forest and rest 16 carcasses were found scattered on one of the slopes and top of the hill. Subsequent action brought a team of forest officials, wildlife experts, veterinary experts headed by the State Forest minister Shri Parimal Suklabaidya to Bamunipahar, where lay the slain carcasses of the 18 wild elephants, the reason of their death a complete mystery to everyone.
After the initial field visit the State Forest department came up with their assertion that these 18 elephants have died because of lightning flash, this version fully supported by the State Forest minister. The wildlife experts procured by the government sought validation for this theory from overseas experts without any logic. Now, one needs to keep it in mind that neither the state forest department nor the State Forest Minister considered the importance to call for a thorough scientific investigation to find the root cause of the death of these 18 elephants.
Asian Elephant is a Schedule 1 species, duly protected under the Wildlife Protection Act of India. A huge amount of money and efforts are spent every year in the name of conservation and protection of such species of wildlife in nature. There biological and ecological importance doesn’t need an introduction here. Assam cluelessly lost 18 wild elephants in one go and the State Forest department didn’t even think twice before narrating their fictitious story about lightning flash killing the 18 wild beasts without any scientific validation or future plan for any scientific investigation.
The forest minister who is running his second term in this chair ought to have consulted a better team before supporting this argument which attracted due suspicion from every corner of civil society. The sudden death of 18 elephants of Bamunipahar shook the nature lovers across the state. Elephants command a significant cultural importance in Assam. The Assamese psyche has a strong bonding with Elephants which is not limited to modern ideas of environment and wildlife conservation. The tragic death of a total of 18 wild elephants in this non-descript part of Assam pained the hearts of every conscientious individual.
Nature’s Beckon, a leading environment organization of the region appealed to the State Forest minister to release the post mortem reports of the 18 dead elephants of Bamunipahar to ascertain the real cause behind the death of all the 18 elephants. The organisation expressed its reservation in accepting the rather fictitious argument given by the state forest department which says that these 18 elephants died due to lightning flash. AAEA (All Assam Engineer’s Association), an independent body of engineers in an official statement dated 17th May 2021, categorically called the theory purported by the state forest department an ‘absurd argument’, according to them the possibility of lightning flash to kill bulky animal like elephant and that too 18 wild elephants are next to impossible. AAEA also stressed proper scientific investigation into this mysterious death of 18 elephants in Bamunipahar, the post mortem report of each elephant is vital in finding the truth behind this tragic incident.
“The agonizing death of these 18 giants is a mammoth fall for mankind. We forfeit our right to celebrate Nature in the name of Environment Day, Earth Day, Ozone Day, Biodiversity Day and so on. Let these celebrations be shelved till we reckon the significance of our actions and understand the true essence of Nature.”
While people in Assam who are already reeling under the second wave of covid-19 pandemic were kept clueless about the reality behind this elephant tragedy, a nexus of corrupt forest officials and a group of wildlife conservationists tried their best to erase all possible traces of wrong doing from the scene and the public psyche regarding the real reason responsible for the agonizing death of the 18 elephants of Bamunipahar, Nagaon, Assam. These gang of elite cons in the garb of wildlife-conservationists didn’t fail to harp on the absurd theory of lightning flash killing the 18 elephants without going into any scientific investigation, they didn’t consider it important to wait for the post mortem reports of the 18 elephants before tagging it as a case of unusual natural disaster. Their scientific acumen seems to have frizzled by the ‘lightning flash’.
On the other hand, environment activists and civil society under the leadership of Nature’s Beckon continued to demand the speedy release of the post mortem reports of the 18 dead Asian Elephants of Bamunipahar, Nagaon. Their appeals seem to have remained unheard by the state forest minister of Assam so far. The government failed to make the post mortem reports public despite the significance of the post mortem reports of these 18 elephants in revealing the truth. In the meantime, an ambiguous histopathological report of one of the dead elephants dated 23rd May 2021, drew media attention. According to this report, this particular elephant had died due to high voltage electricity. Similar to the pseudo wildlife conservationists of Assam, the ethics of many media houses and journalists have also dug their graves in due course of time and temptations, they couldn’t keep themselves from playing their sly act by spreading the news of this suspicious histopathological report as the sought-after post-mortem report.
While this multi-layered crafty plot was on the roll, the state forest minister and state forest department froze themselves in their self-styled silence, they can’t say anything about the post mortem reports, they failed to give any convincing scientific evidence as the reason behind the death of 18 elephants of Bamunipahar, Nagaon. They are mocking the immense effort taken through years to conserve Asian Elephants in their natural habitats, they have proved themselves to be the worst custodians of our forests and wildlife.
The wildlife conservationists who fail to understand the gravity of this incidence should forfeit from calling themselves a wildlife-conservationist anymore. I feel this applies to the entire wildlife community of India, shame on the nature workers who couldn’t lend their voice for the cause of justice for the 18 elephants of Bamunipahar, Nagaon, Assam. This is the worst wildlife crime ever witnessed in Assam, the perpetrators this time are not any ‘men in conflict with law’ but a well organised nexus of people driven by lust of money and power. The ruthless killing of these 18 elephants shows the steep fall of our race which is blinded by the flash of wealth and fame.
No matter what, everything isn’t lost, Assam still has hope in the name of few good Samaritans who never fail to act for the cause of Nature despite all difficulties. While the so-called custodians of our forests remained absorbed in their manipulative manoeuvres to cover up the truth behind such a wildlife tragedy; Nature’s Beckon, few other responsible environment organizations and some committed individuals stood together to give justice to the 18 elephants of Bamunipahar, Nagaon. Whereas the forest minister and the state forest department evaded the question of providing any scientific evidence to support their baseless theory of death of the 18 elephants caused by a lightning flash on 12th May 2021, Nature’s Beckon organized the first ever panel discussion of experts on 28th May 2021 to understand the scientific possibilities leading to the death of 18 elephants of Bamunipahar, Nagaon.
This path breaking webinar discussion brought the true picture of Bamunipahar closer to the people of Assam and most importantly this expert panel brought a clear understanding of the real conditions in which the 18 elephants had died. At the present moment the expert panel proceeding of this webinar is the most reliable and authentic logical information available to all to understand the real cause of the death of the 18 elephants of Bamunipahar, Nagaon, Assam. This panel of experts consists of Bubul Sharma (editor of Xeuj Barta), Manash Lochan Das (Associate Professor in Chemistry), Bhaskar J Barua (Electrical Engineer and conservationist), Dr. Sanjan Hazarika (Ph.D in Lightning and VLF atmospherics), Prodip Saikia (Scientist, conservationist), Dwipen Kalita ( Elephant consultant, trainer and manager), Nava J Thakuria ( Eletrical Engineer and senior journalist). The webinar was led by well-known environmentalist Soumyadeep Datta, Director, Nature’s Beckon.
“Hence, we need to know whether the post mortem of the hearts of these elephants has been carried out or not. He also pointed out to the circumstantial evidences viz; elephant carcasses found in sitting position, the lush foliage of trees, ground vegetation without any burnt marks goes against the theory of elephants getting killed by lighting flash. There is a possibility that these elephants have died of potential difference created either by some natural discharge or some man-made electric field. Perhaps these elephants died of electric shock, but this again can be confirmed with further scientific investigation.”
An expert panel of wide experiences bonded on the common ground of self-less commitment towards the cause of giving justice to the 18 elephants of Bamunipahar, Nagaon. This article dedicated to comprehend the reality hidden behind the tragic death of 18 elephants of Bamunipahar cannot do justice to the cause without taking a closer look into this webinar. Every panel member of this webinar played a key role in bringing the palpable truth closer to us. Bubul Sharma drew everyone’s attention towards the rampant deforestation, encroachment and other unlawful non-forestry activities carried on in Bamunipahar and Tapatjuri area right under the nose of state forest department. These areas constitute an important elephant corridor, several large herds of Asian Elephants been frequenting these corridors for years.
Despite its significance as an Elephant corridor the state forest department is known to have provided no objection certificate (NOC) to a solar power project in this area. This ambitious solar power project has recently barricaded a large tract of land in this elephant corridor, causing inconvenience to the elephant movements. Bubul Sharma expressed his concern regarding the underlying motives which could have triggered the killing of 18 elephants of Bamunipahar. He also pointed out the evidences which goes against the chances of lighting flash to have killed the elephants there. Forest department has been referring to a Teak tree which according to them was hit by lighting bolt on 12th May 2021, and this lightning flash was responsible for the death of 18 elephants who were present in that place that night. Incidentally, this tree is at a much lower altitude compared to the elevation where the 16 elephant carcasses were found, the rest of the 4 elephant carcasses were found near Tapatjuri.
This is well understood that a lightning bolt cannot bounce upwards a distance of 20-30ft to cause of any animal stationed in the elevation. This account of circumstantial evidences provided by Bubul Sharma gets a further impetus with the analytical deliberation of Bhaskar J Barua. I would like the readers to take note of the fact that, both Bubul Sharma and Bhaskar J Baruah are two panel members who physically reviewed the scene in Bamunipahar after 13th May 2021. Bhaskar J Barua explained with clear analytical vividity as to how the scene in Bamunipahar doesn’t support the purported lighting flash theory of state forest department. From his description, it became clear that the Teak tree identified to have been struck by lightning bolt is a secondary tree situated in a relatively lower altitude.
In comparison to it, two primary Teak trees much taller than this secondary tree were situated in higher altitude which unusually escaped the lightning flash. One of these primary trees was very close to elephant carcasses. This scene completely goes against the possibility of lightning flash killing the elephants. First of all, lightning flash would have struck one of the taller primary trees, but here both the primary trees are abounding with lush foliage. Secondly, it is impossible for the flash to rebound and kill the elephants who were in a higher altitude.
Bhaskar J Barua also pointed out the impossibility of a probable step potential to be behind the death of these elephants because the ground vegetation and the surrounding environment of Bamunipahar does not show any mark of a lightning bolt from sky to hit the ground; in case of step potential the lighting bolt will leave prominent burnt marks on the ground vegetation, it will also render a change in the chemical composition of soil. While the lush vegetation present in the scene doesn’t support the possibility of step potential and on the other hand no scientific testing of soil samples have been carried out so far to find out about the chemical changes of soil and soil resistivity which are the scientific markers to ascertain the occurrence of any lightning flash in this place.
He made it very clear to all that this is definitely not a case of any lighting flash leading to the death of the 18 elephants. Among the panellists, Manash Lochan Das and Dwipen Kalita threw light into the behavioural discrepancies evident in the publicly available pictures of the carcasses of the 18 elephants of Bamunipahar; the pictures show elephants in sitting positions which according to both Mr. Das and Mr. Kalita is not possible had the elephants been killed by lighting flash. Elephants need to make a lot of effort to settle in the sitting position which means they require ample of time to do so, which is not possible in case of an instant death caused by a striking lightning bolt. They also pointed out to the fact that in the summer months the elephants in a herd remain scattered, they never stay in close circle.
“Whatever be it, these band of miscreants need to understand that they have definitely crossed the limit this time, such violence against wildlife is not be tolerated. The forests of Assam, the rich flora and fauna of our country is not their property, they have rather ousted themselves from their chairs due to their inefficiency and apathy. Assam witnessed the most alarming event in the history of conservation and culture in the name of this elephant tragedy.”
This elephant behaviour again indicates that a striking lightning bolt cannot possibly kill 18 elephants scattered over a large area. Manash Lochan Das also pointed out o the fact that body of the elephants didn’t show any burnt marks, rather the elephants with bloated bellies and foaming mouths indicates a prolonged agonizing death. He also referred to the ambiguity of the histopathological report which made rounds in social media and inability of the government to furnish the post mortem reports of the dead elephants till date. He further added that this could be a case of death of elephants due to electrocution due to planned electric field created by human beings. Dwipen Kalita drew reference from other instances of elephant deaths due to lightning flash from different parts of India, but such incidence of death of 18 elephants has never been reported before. This stands out in itself, a case which calls for thorough investigation and probe.
An expert in the field of lightning and thunder bolts, Dr. Sanjan Hazarika added valid scientific edge to the panel discussion. He stated in clear terms that a transient natural phenomenon like lighting flash can kill not more than 5-6 elephants which were very close to the point of strike of the lighting flash. He also explained that there are many instances where it is seen that during such lighting flashes, the person directly in touch with the tree happens to die, others who are not in direct touch of the tree doesn’t die, they may get injured.
This indicates that lighting flash can never cause the death of 18 elephants. He further validated the behavioural observations of other panellists with scientific inputs like Lightning flash instantly damages the complete nervous system of the being/animal making it impossible for the being to make any further movement. In case an elephant dies of lighting flash, its heart will burst, the circulatory and nervous system will stop functioning at that very instant of the flash. It will be impossible for the animal to shout or move. In the present case, people have reported of elephant’s trumpeting from the scene. But a lightning hit elephant could never shout or move. He further added that lighting flashes always strikes at the highest point, the tallest structure in the given place.
The scene of Bamunipahar as presented by other panel members doesn’t support the required evidences to ascertain an occurrence of lightning flash. He further said that a probable step potential doesn’t have the capacity to kill an elephant and the rebounding of the flash is also not possible. According to Dr. Hazarika, this scene needs further scientific investigation and this definitely builds up to be an incidence of 18 elephants getting killed by lightning flash.
A witness of lightning flash event his own lifetime, Panellist Prodip Saikia emboldened the deliberations of other speakers by saying that lightning bolts always choses the tallest tree, needless to say the scene of Bamunipahar itself cries out the fatal faults in the dubious assertion that lightning struck a secondary tree and caused the death of 18 elephants which were atleast 20ft away from this tree. According to Mr. Saikia, the heart of any animal dying due to lighting flash will be ruptured. This makes the post mortem of the hearts of the 18 elephants of Bamunipahar key evidence to prove that these elephants died due to lighting flash.
Hence, we need to know whether the post mortem of the hearts of these elephants has been carried out or not. He also pointed out to the circumstantial evidences viz; elephant carcasses found in sitting position, the lush foliage of trees, ground vegetation without any burnt marks goes against the theory of elephants getting killed by lighting flash. There is a possibility that these elephants have died of potential difference created either by some natural discharge or some man-made electric field. Perhaps these elephants died of electric shock, but this again can be confirmed with further scientific investigation.
Senior journalist Nava J Thakuria further enriched the panel discussion giving it a decisive direction by stating that this is definitely a man-made disaster; the elephants definitely didn’t die due to lighting flash, many are saying the elephants died of electrocution, in which case this must be intentional electrocution of elephants by man. He provided a clear picture of the happenings by explaining that according to forest department the elephants were gathered in one area which has been refuted by the experts of this panel, it is learned that elephants remain scattered in an area during summer days. Even if the elephants were in a close congregation, a large area approx. 150sqm will be required for 18 elephants to gather together. As such, the lighting flash with a potential to kill 18 elephants would create extremely loud thunder of 200decibel, which would had shaken Nagaon on that night. No one heard any thunder, no one saw any lighting flash, no such phenomenon was sensed by anyone but 18 elephants died because of it. This is absolute absurdity.
We got the news about the death of these 18 elephants on 13th May, according government the elephants died on 12th May 2021. He also stated that as a journalist I can say that the elephants didn’t die on 12th May 2021 as been claimed by the government statement. This is evident from the bloated/swollen bellies of the elephant carcasses. We need to know the exact date and time of death of each Elephant. The absurdity of the argument that lighting flash killed the elephants of Bamunipahar has been well understood by today’s expert panel’s discussion.
Rest we accept the leadership of Nature’s Beckon in our effort to bring the truth behind the mysterious death of these 18 elephants to light. In India Elephants are considered as the representative of Lord Ganesha, the God of wisdom and knowledge. It is impossible for technically qualified people like us, the environment activists and people of India to remain mute in wake of such mindless killing of 18 elephants. We must make a collective effort to find the truth.
This webinar definitely cleared of clouds confusion floated by the miscreants, Nature’s Beckon challenged the state forest minister to publish the post mortem reports of the 18 Asian Elephants of Bamunipahar, Nagaon by 5th June 2021. Assam awaits to give justice to the 18 elephants of Bamunipahar.
This webinar organized by Nature’s Beckon in its effort to find the truth behind the death of 18 Asian elephants of Bamunipahar, Nagaon, Assam represents the real crisis faced by human beings in the recent times of cut throat competition where ethics, morality and dignity are alien attributes. While a group of environment activists zealously caries their steer to instil justice for the cause of Nature and humanity, the government employed band of officials and their compatriots (in this case the pseudo conservationists) unfailingly continue their spree of unabashed wrongdoings.
Whatever be it, these band of miscreants need to understand that they have definitely crossed the limit this time, such violence against wildlife is not be tolerated. The forests of Assam, the rich flora and fauna of our country is not their property, they have rather ousted themselves from their chairs due to their inefficiency and apathy. Assam witnessed the most alarming event in the history of conservation and culture in the name of this elephant tragedy.
The agonizing death of these 18 giants is a mammoth fall for mankind. We forfeit our right to celebrate Nature in the name of Environment Day, Earth Day, Ozone Day, Biodiversity Day and so on. Let these celebrations be shelved till we reckon the significance of our actions and understand the true essence of Nature.