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Death of 18 elephants due to Lightning 

  • IASbaba
  • May 17, 2021
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Death of 18 elephants due to Lightning 

Part of: GS Prelims and GS – I – Geography & GS – III – Environment

In news

  • Recently, 18 elephants died on a hilltop in Assam. 
  • The preliminary post-mortem report indicates they had been struck by lightning.

Important value additions 

The Indian elephant

  • One of three extant recognised subspecies of the Asian elephant and native to mainland Asia
  • IUCN Red List: Endangered 
  • The wild population has declined by at least 50% since the 1930s
  • Threats: by loss, degradation and fragmentation of its habitat
  • It is included in Schedule 1 of the Wildlife Protection Act of 1972

How does lightning kill animals

  • Lightning may injure or kill animals in a number of ways such as:
  • Direct Flash: An animal in an open field may be struck directly by lightning if part of its body protrudes over other objects in the vicinity. Taller animals are more vulnerable.
  • Side Flash: When lightning strikes a tall object such as a tree, it may generate a side flash that can strike an animal standing underneath the tree.
  • Touch Potential: If one part of a tall animal’s body is in contact with the ground while another part, at a higher elevation, comes in contact with a lightning-struck object, a partial current may pass through its body.
  • Step Potential: The most common lightning hazard among four-legged animals. When an animal’s front and hind feet are far enough apart, a partial current may pass through the body in certain circumstances.
  • Since an elephant’s front and hind feet are wide apart, it would appear to make it more vulnerable than a smaller animal, such as a rat.
  • The Bamuni Hill in Assam, where the elephants died, has no tall trees that could have taken the brunt of the lightning strike.

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