18 Elephants Killed After Being Struck by Lightning in India

Eighteen elephants were killed in the Indian state of Assam on Thursday after being struck by lightning.

According to the publication The Hindu, the elephants were located in the Kandali Proposed Reserve Forest of Assam's Nagon district.

Assam's chief wildlife warden, M.K. Yadava, said: "The local staff said 18 elephants have died and lightning is most likely the cause."

"There have been cases of lightning striking animals down. Lightning claimed five elephants in West Bengal some time ago, but this is huge," Yadava added.

While speaking to the Press Trust of India (PTI), Assam's principal chief conservator of forest (wildlife), Amit Sahay, said that when his team arrived to the reserve forest on Thursday, they discovered 18 elephant carcasses in two different groups.

"Fourteen were lying atop the hill and four were found at the bottom of the hill," he said, according to the The Tribune India.

Sahay noted that while preliminary investigations found the elephants to have died from electrocution from the lighting, the exact cause of death will not be known until Friday, following a "post-mortem" investigation.

Several photos and videos of the elephants carcasses were posted on social media following the incident.

"18 wild elephants found dead in two spots in the hill area near Bamuni. Preliminary investigation conducted by the Assam forest department revealed that, the wild jumbos could be killed by lightning," Twitter user Hemanta Kumar Nath of India Today wrote.

18 wild elephants found dead in two spots in the hill area near Bamuni. Preliminary investigation conducted by the Assam forest department revealed that, the wild jumbos could be killed by lightning. https://t.co/laczKENq8y pic.twitter.com/vPvgPI0YCP

— Hemanta Kumar Nath (@hemantakrnath) May 13, 2021

Parimal Suklabaidya, Assam's forest minister, also posted a photo of one of the elephants that was killed by the lightning strike.

"Deeply pained by the death of 18 elephants last night due to massive thunderstorm under Kothiatoli Range in Nagaon," Suklabaidya wrote in a tweet. "I shall be visiting the site tomorrow morning along with PCCF(wildlife) & senior officials to take stock of the situation as directed by HCM Dr. @himantabiswa."

Deeply pained by the death of 18 elephants last night due to massive thunderstorm under Kothiatoli Range in Nagaon. I shall be visiting the site tomorrow morning along with PCCF(wildlife) & senior officials to take stock of the situation as directed by HCM Dr.@himantabiswa. pic.twitter.com/CxHqmUZFtv

— Parimal Suklabaidya (@ParimalSuklaba1) May 13, 2021

While speaking with the Asian News International (ANI), Suklabaidya said: "It is a very saddening incident. This has never happened before in the Assam forest."

Sarbananda Sonowal, Assam's former chief minister, also posted a tweet about the elephants' deaths, stating that it was "unfortunate."

"It is an immense loss to Assam's wildlife and biodiversity," Sonowal's tweet added.

India Today reported on data that found that Assam had the second most elephants in India with around 5,719 in 2017.

Newsweek reached out to Assam's Environment and Forest Ministry for comment, but did not receive a response in time for publication.

Elephants
In this photo taken on July 17, 2019, a herd of wild elephants cross the National Highway-37 in search for safer places at the flood affected area of Kaziranga National Park in the India's northeast state of Assam. Biju Boro/Getty