Can a lightning strike kill eighteen elephants?

Can a lightning strike kill eighteen elephants at the same time?

Yes, a lightning strike can kill eighteen elephants, but there have to be multiple strikes. But, a single lightning strike cannot kill eighteen elephants if they were not touching each other. Elephants don’t huddle together in the summer, so the possibility of all of them touching each other is absurd.
Moreover, the carcasses were found far from each other, thus negating the possibility of them huddling against each other. We all know that a direct lightning strike would kill instantaneously. So it would be absurd to assume that the elephants moved away from their positions after the lightning strike.

Did multiple lightning strikes kill the eighteen elephants?

There is no evidence to suggest that multiple lightning strikes killed the eighteen elephants. It would be absurd to assume that eighteen lightning strikes occurred, but not one of them struck any tree in the vicinity despite being taller than the elephants. How can we accept that these lightning strikes killed eighteen elephants but couldn’t even burn down a bunch of grass? There were many tall trees in the vicinity of the incident, so naturally, lightning would have struck the tallest tree.

Did a Side flash from a lightning strike kill the elephants

A side flash may occur if lightning strikes a tree at an angle and rebounds downwards to hit any animal underneath it. The department is trying to divert people’s attention to a tree with some burnt marks. Interestingly, the burnt portion is about six feet from the ground. Assuming that this burnt portion was due to a lightning strike, the side flash from such a strike would travel downwards from the point of impact. But there were dead elephants at altitudes much higher than this plant. It would be foolish to assume that the elephants decided to move upwards after a lightning strike- the effect of which would be instantaneous. The height of this tree is about twenty feet, whereas there are many taller trees in the area. More importantly, the highlighted tree is still alive, with green leaves, and has not withered. A massive lightning strike of such magnitude would have charred the tree beyond recognition. So we can state with authority that a side flash did not kill the elephants.

Did Touch Potential due to a lightning strike kill the elephants?

If a touch potential due to a lightning strike killed eighteen elephants, then the elephants would have decided for some strange reason to touch the tree at the same time. In that scenario, the dead bodies would not have been spread all over the place.

Did an Upward Streamer due to a lightning strike kill the eighteen elephants?

Upward streamers can also prove fatal to animals. If we consider that scenario, the elephants should have been close to each other, which they were not. So we can safely negate this theory as well.

Did a Step Potential due to a lightning strike kill the elephants?

So the only possibility left would be a step potential generated because of a cloud-to-ground strike. Step Potential is the most common lightning hazard for animals. Since we are talking about the death of 18 gigantic animals, the intensity of the lightning strike would have been massive. The resultant heatwave, measuring over 50,000 ° Fahrenheit – about four times the sun’s temperature, would burn the entire topsoil and the associated greenery like grasses and shrubs. All the microorganisms present in the soil would perish. But there is no evidence to suggest this theory as well. The undergrowth is still green and full of life. The microorganisms are flourishing with abandon.

Why is the Forest Department lying then?

The forest department is one the most corrupt departments in the state. Under their active patronage, timber smugglers stripped the Tapatjuri Hills (where the elephants died) of thousands of valuable teak plantations. They have allowed dozens of stone quarries to operate in the vicinity of this elephant habitat with impunity. But more importantly, they have surreptitiously allowed a private operator to set up a 100-acre solar plant here. The department behaves as if our forest wealth is their inheritance to loot and plunder.
Fearing that their actions over the years stand exposed, they are trying to divert people’s attention from their corrupt ways by blaming an act of Nature as the main culprit.

Why do we suspect foul play?

The Forest Department tried to erase all evidence of foul play from the crime scene, as was evident from two incidents.
First, the Forest Department surreptitiously tried to cremate the elephants with tyres, disregarding all laid down norms. This act demonstrates that they wanted to remove all evidence. Fortunately, one honest officer passed on the information to the environmentally-conscious citizens of Nagaon, who thwarted this illegal attempt.
Second, they filled up the burial grounds with bagfuls of salt to speed up the decomposition process and prevent the carcasses from being exhumed later.
Third, they tried to mislead the public by leaking a histopathological study as a post-mortem report.
Fourth, they failed to publish the post-mortem report even after three weeks after the incident.

How should one investigate a case of lightning strike?

To understand the phenomenon of lightning and investigate its possibility, one needs to test the soil resistivity of the affected area. Next, we need to investigate the morphological changes on the topsoil. These findings collated with postmortem analysis will lead to a conclusive result. The investigative team should have electrical engineers, geo-physicists, geologists, microbiologists and forensic experts. Veterinary doctors cannot investigate such matters.

Forest Department is trying to thwart the scientific process

To arrive at any definitive conclusion before any such combined efforts would be an insult to the scientific temperament in today’s world. And that is what the Forest Department is trying to do – thwart the scientific processes through their opaque and high-handed approach.

The investigation should be broad based?

The investigation should also bring under their purview all the non-forestry activities which are flourishing near this prime elephant habitat. These include the case of the vanishing act of more than a thousand teak trees from the site of the incident calls for a parallel enquiry. The NOC to a solar power plant bang on this habitat is another case in point. We can say with certainty that corrupt officials of the Forest Department flourish in all glory when such illegal activities mushroom. Or is the Forest Department trying to hide certain unsavoury truths that might crop up with a proper investigation?

Bhaskar J Barua

An engineer by education, a Project Management Consultant by profession, a wildlife photographer by hobby and a passionate conservationists. Founded Agoratoli Resort and Kaziranga Foundation.