GUWAHATI, India – A herd of eighteen wild Asian elephants has been found dead in the Indian state of Assam, possibly due to a massive lightning strike, local officials said on Friday.
Fourteen adult elephants were found dead by villagers on Thursday, and four other bodies were found scattered in the foothills of the forest area of the Kundoli reserve in Assam, about 160 km from the state capital of Dispur. local wildlife official MK Yadava told Reuters.
The state government ordered a high-level investigation into the incident on Friday, Assam’s Forestry and Wildlife Minister Parimal Suklabaidya said.
“A preliminary report suggests the deaths could be due to lightning, although we have to find out through forensic testing if there could be another reason such as poisoning or illness,” the minister added.
Residents who found the elephants said the animals could have been killed by a lightning strike on Wednesday evening, a local ranger said, adding that he had seen burnt trees in the area.
The ranger declined to be named because he was not authorized to speak to the media.