Updated: February 27, 2021 2:25:17 am
A Central team set up by the Ministry of Environment, Forests and Climate Change to look in to the death of six elephants in the Karlapat Wildlife Sanctuary in Kalahandi in January and February has in its preliminary report pointed to a disease, Haemorrhagic Septicemia, caused by a bacteria called pasteurella multocida.
Two cattle were also found dead in the sanctuary. The Central team found another elephant’s body during its visit to the site — all the deaths were reported near water bodies and all the pachyderms were females part of a herd of nine elephants.
How bacteria caused disease
Pasteurella multocida are bacteria found commonly in the respiratory tract of herbivores, especially in cattle. The bacteria rapidly multiply and move from the respiratory tract to the bloodstream only when the animal’s body faces stress, has low immunity or is unhealthy — as was the case with the cattle in Tentulipada village in Kalahandi district. This causes diarrhoea and often haemorrhagic septicemia, which can be fatal. Of the nine animals found dead in Karlapat, seven were pregnant. There is stress in the body of animals when they are pregnant which makes them vulnerable to diseases, according to a ministry official.
The elephants are likely to have contracted the bacteria from cattle residing in the Tentulipada village, a small hamlet of 12 households, inside the sanctuary.
The cattle would have passed on the disease to the elephants through contamination of the soil through faecal droppings or contamination of the water bodies. The disease is believed to have then swept through the herd, from one elephant to another, through direct contact.
After conducting post mortem and RNA extraction tests, the samples have now been sent to the Indian Veterinary Research Institute in Bareilly, UP, for a final confirmation. Tests have so far confirmed high levels of the bacteria, at 86 percent, in the samples.
Veterinary and forest officials in Odisha are now on high alert to prevent the disease. Eight teams of 10 forest officials have been patrolling the sanctuary, tracking the two surviving elephants for signs of the disease and ensuring they are away from the other elephants — the forest had 22 elephants before the deaths were reported.
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