.........BARIPADA: THE death of an adult female elephant near Phulbadia village, bordering Similipal National Park, sparked controversy as an activist raised allegation of poaching, even as the forest officials suspected a remote possibility of anthrax.“The female adult was around 20 years old. She used to come here in a herd of three elephants since the past three days. She was often found roaming within the boundary of Similipal forest and in the surrounding paddy fields. She might have died 48 hours back due to anthrax or natural cause,” said Assistant Conservator, Arun Kumar Patra.The carcass was found at a spot that comes under Udala range of Baripada territorial division in Mayurbhanj district on Monday. On receiving information about the elephant’s death, Deputy Director Jagyandatta Pati, DFO Swayam Mallik, Assistant Conservator Arun Kumar Patra and other officials rushed to the spot, along with a team of veterinary doctors, including Dr Piyush Soren of Similipal Tiger Reserve, Khanim Tangmaiee of Wildlife Trust of India and Sarat Kumar Patra and Debasis Mohapatra of Udala. The incident has set alarm bells ringing among the forest officials as they fear the occurrence of an anthrax outbreak that killed around eight elephants, a couple of years back.
However, the forest officials were divided in their opinions regarding the cause of death.“The elephant died as she fell by the side of a trench and received severe injury. The carcass had injury spots with the stomach coming out,” DFO Swayam Mallik said.
Environmentalist, Vanoomitra Acharya, who also rushed to the spot, alleged that the elephant was struck by arrows as her carcass bore several injury marks. “Poachers had tried to kill the wild tuskers in the herd and mistakenly, the female adult fell prey to their arrows,” Vanoomitra claimed.“The blood samples have been collected from the carcass. It will be sent to Orissa University of Agriculture and Technology and Animal Disease Research Institute, Cuttack to ascertain the exact cause of death. The carcass was burnt near the spot. We are suspecting it to be a case of anthrax,” Dr Piyush Soren said.