Conservation group demands credible probe into Bamunipahar elephant tragedy

    09-Jun-2021   
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Guwahati: Expressing utter dissatisfactions over an investigation report of Assam forest department declaring that a massive lightning strike killed a herd of wild Asiatic elephants over Bamunipahar forestry on 12 May, an active biodiversity conservation group of northeast Bharat demands a high-level scientific probe into the mysterious deaths of 18 pachyderms.
 
Expressing serious doubts over the probing process Nature’s Beckon in a recent appeal to State chief minister Dr Himanta Biswa Sarma insisted on constituting a committee comprising members from the field of Geology, Electrical Engineering, Science of Lightning (Thundering) along with the representatives from Zoological Survey of India, Wildlife Institute of India, Police department and civil society groups to investigate the tragedy.
 
Mentioning about the 90 pages investigation report, released by State forest minister Parimal Suklabaidya during a press conference held on 3 June in the city after repeated demands from various organisations and environment enthusiasts, the influential conservation group termed it as ‘full of misinformation with a pile of unnecessary details added to make the document appears credible’. “The probe committee did not have lightning experts, electrical engineers, geo-physicists, forensic experts, crime branch personnel, local representatives, etc, but only veterinarians, who are directly or indirectly related to the forest department. Moreover, all the
 
tests were conducted in their own laboratories keeping no space for independent test-centers,” claimed Nature’s Beckon adding that anyone found guilty of destroying or hiding evidences must be convicted.
 
Minister Suklabaidya, form the very beginning, continues asserting that all the jumbos on Bamunipahar under Kundalini reserve forest in Nagaon district died of a massive thunderbolt. For the obvious reason, the departmental enquiry involved only two elephants for necessary dissections keeping as many as 16 animals out of any forensic examinations, claimed Nature’s Beckon’s director Soumyadeep Datta.
 
To prove that all the elephants died because of the electrocution by lightning, the ear-drums of the victims should have been examined. Moreover, the sensitive organ (to thunderbolt impact) like heart (of every elephant) was not thoroughly investigated. The committee mentioned that samples were collected randomly, but did not specify any carcass, which is nothing but an attempt to hide important evidences, asserted conservationist Bhaskar J Barua.
Barua, who is an engineering graduate and a member of Nature’s Beckon, asserted that the forest department’s report was ‘based on assumptions with no scientific analysis’. Nowhere does it say that lightning illed the elephants. Rather they assumed that lightning was the main culprit, said Barua adding that the leaked histopathology report also hinted for a tentative diagnosis of high voltage electrocution that killed the jumbos.
 
“But what is meant by the high voltage electrocution? How much high was the vault difference and what was the source of energy? Did the investigation included other mean (read human operated) of electrocution to kill all the elephants?” asked Barua adding no relevant tests (involving specific organs of all the victims) confirming the occurrence of lightning/thunderbolt were conducted in the area so far.
 
Novanita Sharma, another active member of the group, informed that the forest minister cleverly cited supports from some international organizations including IUCN regarding the department’s lightning theory but the released report (by himself on 3 June) did not carry any supporting document to prove his claim. She also stated that the forensic report also said that their thunderbolt theory was solely based on assumptions without any scientific evidences.
 
Finally Datta raised a pertinent question that if the Bamunipahar area was an elephant habitat and a popular animal corridor (as mentioned in the released report itself), how the forest department could provide a no-objection certificate to a giant solar power project coming up in the locality. Moreover, he added, a group of local youths urged the minister during his visit to the site to check the matter seriously, but why he did not pay attentions to them!