Captured and translocated, rogue elephant dies of cardiac arrest

Abhishek Saha
Assam’s Chief Wildlife Warden M K Yadav performs the last rites at Orang National Park on Sunday. (Source: Assam forest dept)

A rogue elephant that killed five people in Goalpara district on October 29, and was subsequently captured and translocated to Orang National Park on November 12 following a 10-day operation, died in captivity on Sunday morning, forest officials said.

Dr K K Sarma, a top veterinarian who was among the four doctors who conducted the autopsy, said the primary cause was “cardiac arrest”. “The primary reason was a heart disease that the animal had and the process of capture and translocation could have been a precipitating cause,” said Sarma, professor and head of surgery and radiology at the College of Veterinary Science in Guwahati.

Sarma said viscera and blood samples have been collected for further analysis to shed light on “what triggered the cardiac arrest”. However, he clarified that most of the animal’s “heart muscles” had already died and this was not caused by recent events.

The elephant, nicknamed Krishna after its capture, died at about 5.45 am at the Elephant Training Camp, according to a statement issued by B V Sandeep, Divisional Forest Officer (Mangaldai). “The elephant was in constant observation and good care and had started responding well to the mahouts,” Sandeep said.

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Krishna, who was over 30 years old, was initially planned to be released at a forest in Lumding in Hojai district but was brought to Orang following massive public protests over safety of villagers.


Habitat loss and conflict in Assam

According to data provided by the Assam government this year, 761 people were killed by elephants in the state since 2010, while 249 elephants lost their lives due to non-natural reasons in the same period. Activists believe that habitat loss due to encroachment has forced elephants to leave forest areas and move to other places in search of food and water, leading to loss of life and property.

The forest department planned to train the elephant though experts had hinted at the difficulty in domesticating a grown up elephant. Forest department officials had earlier said that the elephant was left out of its herd and was not able to mate.

The process of tracking, capturing and translocating the elephant was one of the first of its kind in the state. BJP MLA Padma Hazarika, whose family is associated with catching elephants, had also joined the operation to track and capture Krishna. “It is very unfortunate... I have been tracking the elephant’s prognosis after it was translocated and everything seemed fine,” Hazarika said, adding that he had suggested immediate treatment for the elephant’s injuries.

Sandeep’s statement also stated that the animal was “found to have several injuries and festering wounds on the body and the underbelly prior to the capture”.