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After a week of being tranquilized and captured by forest officials, Laden aka Krishna died at Orang National Park in Assam on Sunday after a cardiac arrest
After a week of being tranquilized and captured by forest officials, Laden aka Krishna died at Orang National Park in Assam on Sunday after a cardiac arrest|EastMojo image
ASSAM

Tranquilizer overdose suspected in death of Assam elephant ‘Laden’

Lack of planning among specialised team of forest officials constituted to capture killer jumbo and its aftermath, alleges expert team of veterinarians

Sandeep Borah

Sandeep Borah

Guwahati: A state of shock has gripped the people of Assam, with mixed reactions pouring in from veterinary experts, wildlife activists, and even forest department officials of the state, over the recent capture, relocation and death of rogue elephant -- ‘Laden’, later called ‘Krishna’ -- on Sunday evening.

After going through preliminary findings of the post-mortem report, a team of veterinary experts, including officials from the College of Veterinary Sciences in Guwahati, that was constituted to study the cause of the elephant’s death, said that although there were several injuries and festering wounds in its body and underbelly, the primary cause of Krishna’s death was due to a ‘cardiac arrest’ and the capture and translocation process can be considered as a precipitating cause.

The expert team of veterinarians further revealed that there was a lack of proper planning among the specialised team of forest department officials constituted to capture the killer elephant, especially in context to the tranquilization and the process of capture, and its aftermath that could have been prevented, said sources.

The experts' team further went to allege that there was a complete breach of protocol in the ‘capture operation’ of the wild animal as it was already started before three members of the core team reached the spot.

Meanwhile, eyewitnesses of the capture operation interestingly revealed that the animal was seen left under the sun for a long time after its tranquillization as it took time for the officials to decide on where to shift it from there for its treatment.

Refuting allegations and speculations put upon the capture and tranquillization process of the wild jumbo, Bharatiya Janata Party legislator from Sootea constituency of Assam’s Sonitpur district, Padma Hazarika, who led the specialised team of forest department officials, expressed that adequate amount of dose were used to tranquillize the animal and it should not be reason behind its death.

Hazarika, however, informed that he had seen injury marks on the elephant’s body after it was tranquilized and even suggested that it requires proper medical treatment before it proceeds for its captive training.

Pressing upon his experience and skill in the field, Hazarika further stated that he had tranquilized several elephants and also rhinos earlier but none died due to overdose.

“What kind of treatment and medicines were provided to the animal at the rehabilitation centre will be best known to the forest department officials and I feel that they must have done best to heal the elephant from their part?” Hazarika asked.

Remembering his last meeting with Krishna at the rehabilitation centre, Hazarika expressed that he himself had fed the captured animal along with other elephants with pumpkins and elephant apple and his health condition was better at that time.

Speaking with EastMojo over the series of incident that might have led to the death of the wild jumbo, renowned wildlife activist from the state and founder of ‘Early Bird Foundation’ Moloy Baruah, expressed that the move of the state government to hand over the capture process to a legislator was unexpected as he might not know about the exact amount of dose to be provided to tranquilize a particular aged elephant despite his previous skills and tactics in handling them.

“It is said that when the first tranquilizer didn’t work the second was pushed in and which might have led to gradual health degradation and finally death of the wild jumbo,” Baruah said.

Baruah further went to allege that the process of capture and transmitting of the wild elephant after tranquilization by loading it to a truck with the help of an excavator must also have an adverse impact on the elephant’s health condition.

“The state forest department should be equipped enough and it should train and skill young veterinarians to work on the field in such critical situations so that such untoward incidents can be eliminated,” Baruah expressed.

Meanwhile, releasing a statement recently, authorities of the Assam forest department in Orang informed that the elephant was in constant observation and good care while it started responding well to the mahouts. The elephant had its normal intake of food and showed normal behaviour, and was also lightly fed at 4.00 am and 5.00 am on Sunday.

It also stated that the viscera and blood samples of the dead jumbo have been collected by the team of veterinary for further investigations and the cause of death will soon be revealed after the detailed post-mortem reports are out. The carcass of the wild elephant was buried at Orang training centre with due honours in presence of chief wildlife warden MK Yadav around 4 pm on Sunday, after the post-mortem was completed.