The death of at least 18 elephants in northern Assam’s Nameri national park since early July this year has sent forest and wildlife authorities of the north-east on a wild-goose chase. The reason: nobody knows what or who killed these pachyderms. The first death was reported as early as July 3, but it was not before park rangers and wildlife enthusiasts stumbled upon several carcasses a month later in the 200-sq km park that the enormity of the entire issue became evident.
The many theories doing the rounds about the cause of the deaths have only added to the confusion. Initially, park officials blamed the deaths on an outbreak of anthrax, a killer disease which claimed at least 150 elephants in the area between 1914 and ’15. Then, H.P. Phukan, the Nameri park in-charge, announced that two of the elephants died of liver fluke—caused by a parasite which affects all grazing animals. But he wasn’t sure why the rest of the beasts perished. Experts from Guwahati’s Veterinary College have now been engaged to reach a conclusion. The state has even sent an sos to the Centre to depute experts to help them work out a solution.