Anthrax behind deaths of elephants in Odisha?

Bhubaneswar: Three elephants, including a calf, died at Asurkhol in Prabhasuni reserve forest in Deogarh district on Sunday due to suspected Anthrax infection. Seven elephants have died of different causes in past one week.

The locals discovered the carcasses of the pachyderms inside the reserve forest and informed the forest personnel. “There are strong reasons to believe that the animals died of Anthrax. There was nasal and anal bleeding indicating Anthrax infection. There were no other external injuries such as wound or gunshots,” principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Siddhant Das told TOI.

The viscera of the dead animals will be sent to Orissa University of Agriculture Technology (OUAT) to find out the exact cause of death, he added. “Besides Anthrax, we are also suspecting poisoning,” the top wildlife officer said.

According to official sources, the three elephants belonged to a herd of around 60 elephants. They roam in the adjoining forests in Deogarh, Angul and Sambalpur districts.

The sources said between June 5 and June 7, three other elephants died in different forest divisions. On June 5, while an elephant had died due to prolonged illness in Asurkhol forest, a 25-year old tusker died of electrocution in a mango orchad in Hindol range in Dhenkanal district. On June 7, another elephant died at Dhandatopa range under Athmallik division, reportedly due to illness.

In March, forest minister Bikram Keshari Arukh had told the assembly that out of 38 elephants who died due to unnatural reasons in the past two years, poaching and electrocution killed 32.

Wildlife campaigner Biswajit Mohanty claimed that between January 1 and June 1, 14 elephants died in the state. “I suspect the three elephants died a week ago. Including the recent seven deaths, the state has lost 21 elephants in six months,” he told TOI adding there should be a fair probe to ascertain the exact cause of deaths so that unnatural death is checked.

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