By Priyangi Agarwal
BAREILLY: More than 6,000 elephants have died in India in the past two decades, reveals a research study conducted by a retired scientist of the Indian Veterinary Research Institute. Most of these elephants have died due to some illness or disease, the researcher said.
The highest number of elephant deaths for the period between 1990 and 2012 have been reported from the southern part of the country, where as many as 3239 elephants have died. This is followed by the north-east region, which has reported 1403 deaths, eastern India with 1253 and the northern region with 378 deaths.
The figures, however, might not be completely accurate, said Dr BM Arora, who conducted the research, which was sponsored by the directorate project elephant, ministry of forest and environment. "The data for elephant mortality, in most cases is available from 1990 to 2012. However, in there is no uniformity in the maintenance of records between forest departments of various states. In many states, the record keeping started much later than 1990, while in some it is not available till 2012. So some of the figures in the study are an estimate," said Dr Arora. His research is titled 'Study and evaluation of elephant mortality in elephant reserves - an overview of species health status'.
The research reveals that apart from disease and illness, natural causes, electrocution, train accidents, poisoning, habitat and environmental hazards are major causes of elephant deaths. Human-elephant conflict has also emerged as a prominent cause. According to the estimates in the study, 1499 elephants have died due to an illness or disease in the past two decades, while 1276 elephants died of natural causes. Electrocution killed 694 elephants while 562 were killed by poachers. The cause of death of as many as 875 elephants is not known. Arora said that electrocution happens if an elephant comes in contact of electric fences after it strays into human settlements.
"There is a reason behind the animal's natural death as well. However, veterinary experts have not mentioned anything in their post-mortem reports. The 'unknown reasons' for their deaths cannot be determined because only bones or small remains of their decomposed bodies were found during the research. If an elephant died due to injuries, capture, senility etc. it cannot be diagnosed as there is nothing in the post mortem report," said Arora.
"The research was done considering the post-mortem examination report of each case and photograph of the important lesions," said Arora, who began working on the project in 2010. The project was submitted to ministry of environment and forest in 2014.