Tezpur/Dhubri, Dec. 6: A wild tusker was brutally killed in Lakhimpur district in Upper Assam this evening while another was found with its tusks missing and battling for life in Goalpara district in Lower Assam in the morning.
Yet another elephant was electrocuted at Lakhmijan tea estate in Sivasagar district last night. Forest officials said the male elephant had come in contact with low-lying power cables.
At Dulong reserve forest in Lakhimpur district, poachers killed and mutilated a wild elephant at 5pm. They chopped off and took away its legs, tail and trunk, sources said.
“They hanged the tusk on a tree,” one of them said. Residents said the elephant appeared to be mentally disturbed and was moving in the area under Pathalipam beat office, bordering Arunachal Pradesh, for the last couple of days.
Forest personnel have rushed to the area, 40km from the district headquarters of Lakhimpur, which is around 400km from Guwahati, but the poachers could not be apprehended so far.
Dilip Nath, a member of the Sonitpur unit of Aranya Suraksha Samiti, condemned the ghastly incident and demanded forest minister Rakibul Hussain’s resignation for his failure to protect wildlife. He said because of encroachment of forest area, elephants were straying out of their natural habitats thus exposing themselves to poachers.
Earlier in the day, members of Asom Jatiyatabadi Yuba Chatra Parishad (AJYCP) burnt Hussain’s effigy in Lakhimpur.
In Goalpara district, villagers living on the fringes of Pancharatna reserve forest, which is 15km from the district headquarters and under Goalpara forest division, said they had heard an elephant’s cries of pain last night. But they did not dare venture to the spot as the sound was coming from deep inside the forest.
The villagers alleged it was a case of poaching but the Goalpara forest division and the forest minister said it was a case of in-herd fighting.
Pobitra Rabha, one of the villagers, said when they entered the forest this morning they found the elephant lying in a swamp, its tusks broken, bleeding profusely and writhing in pain.
“We informed the forest guards at Pancharatna but they did not come immediately. We were helpless as we could not go near the elephant without any protection,” he said.
The villagers alleged that only when the news spread did forest officials arrive with veterinarians. The vets are treating the elephant but it’s still in great pain.
Goalpara divisional forest officer Muklesh Ali, however, said, “It is not a case of poachers chopping off tusks but the result of a fight between two elephants. We rushed to the spot immediately after receiving the news. The injured elephant is being taken care of.”
He said the vets were administering injections and medicines to the elephant. Food has been supplied, too. The forest division is looking for a kunti (domesticated elephant) to pull up the injured elephant from the mud pit so that it can get on its feet and recover soon.
However, parts of the broken tusk have not been recovered till now, Ali added.
A source in Goalpara forest department said elephant expert Kushal Kumar Sarma would arrive soon to probe the incident.
Nature’s Friends, an NGO in lower Assam, urged Hussain to take steps to arrest the poachers and take action against forest officials who have failed to control the growing attack on wild animals.
Its president, Kulodhar Das, alleged that poachers were roaming more freely than wild animals in Assam’s forests, chopping off rhino horns and elephant tusks at will while forest officials were doing nothing to stop this.
“Because of the total failure of forest officials to bring elephants on the corridors, many elephants are getting injured on railway tracks and their tusks are being chopped. They have also failed to control elephant depredation in Goalpara forests in the past few years,” he added.
Hussain told The Telegraph in Guwahati this evening that vets attending to the elephant in Goalpara had suggested that it was not a case of poaching but “fighting” within a herd.
“I have asked chief conservator of forests D. Haraprasad to inquire into the incident and submit a report within 24 hours. Action will be taken against anyone involved if the reports about poaching are found to be true. According to the doctors, the elephant is showing signs of improvement,” he said.