Death of 18 elephants due to Lightning
Part of: GS Prelims and GS – I – Geography & GS – III – Environment
- 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.