GAUHATI, India (AP) – Lightning is believed to have killed 18 wild elephants in northeastern India, forestry officials said Friday.
Elephants, including five calfs, were found dead during rain in the protected Kondali Forest Reserve, wildlife official Jayanta Goswami said. Rangers reached a remote area Thursday and found 14 elephants dead on the hill and four below.
Initial reports from veterinarians indicated that the elephants were struck by lightning, but Goswami said an autopsy was performed to determine the true cause of death.
This reserve is in the Nagaon district of Assam, 150 kilometers (95 miles) east of Gauhati, the state capital.
Assam is home to approximately 6,000 or more Asian wild elephants that constantly come out of the wild for food.
Conservationists have called on the government to prevent poaching of people and to create free corridors to allow elephants to safely move between the forests. In recent years, wild elephants have entered villages, destroying crops and even killing people.