RTI nails anthrax lie in elephant deaths at Similipal Tiger Reserve (India)


Riyan Ramanath V|, Times of India

Date Published

BHUBANESWAR: It is not just anthrax which killed 16 elephants at Similipal Tiger Reserve (STR) in the past two and half years. Contrary to claims by officials at Similipal, information obtained under RTI revealed that out of the 16, only five died due to anthrax.

Blood samples of all 16 elephants were sent for test at the Animal Disease Research Institute in Phulnakhara, Cuttack, out of which 11 turned out to be negative, the RTI pointed out. Of the five positive cases, three were from STR and two from Baripada forest division. This indicates that 11 elephants didn’t die due to anthrax and poaching – by electrocution trap or poisoning – could be the reason behind their deaths. The RTI, filed by the Wildlife Society of Odisha (WSO), suggested that in 70 per cent cases tests for anthrax returned negative. “The ADRI data seems realistic. Had the anthrax spread, as is being claimed by the forest department, it could have been an epidemic. It could have spread to the cattle in the nearby habitation area and other prey animals. But there has not been a single instance of anthrax spreading to other animals,” WSO secretary Biswajit Mohanty said.

Despite repeated attempts, officials at Similipal Tiger Reserve could not be reached for their response. WSO data revealed that the forest department claimed deaths of 16 elephants in STR between December 2014 and March 25, 2017. Since 2010, 84 elephants have died in STR out of which only 26 deaths are attributed to poaching (both poisoning and use of weapon). The official record claimed 40 deaths as natural and 18 for unknown reasons.

Sources said the deaths of at least 39 elephants (within a span of 14 months – between April 2015 and June 12, 2016) could be discovered only after a week. Out of 39, six deaths came to the department’s notice only after a month and three deaths after four months. The decomposed carcasses were not in a state that the cause of deaths could be ascertained.

The 39 carcasses were found in Keonjhar, Nayagarh, Cuttack, Sambalpur, Dhenkanal, Angul, Deogarh, Kandhamal, Sundargarh and Mayurbhanj districts. STR is in Mayurbhanj.