A veterinarian team checks the bodies of wild elephants, suspected to have been killed by lightning, on a hillside in Nagaon district of Assam state on May 14, 2021 AFP

India is home to nearly 30,000 elephants, around 60% of the wild Asian elephant population

At least 18 elephants are suspected to have been killed by lightning in northeastern India, officials said Thursday as they launched a probe into the incident.

Forest officials and a local lawmaker, Jitu Goswami, told AFP they believed the pachyderms died after lightning struck a forest in Nagaon district in central Assam during a storm on Wednesday.

A veterinarian checks the body of a wild elephant, suspected to have been killed by lightning, on a hillside in Nagaon district of Assam state on May 14, 2021 | AFP

Assam Chief Minister Himanta Biswa Sarma said in a statement that he was concerned about the deaths of such a “huge number of elephants.”

“Deeply pained by the death of 18 elephants last night due to massive thunderstorm under Kothiatoli Range in Nagaon,” Assam’s Forest Minister Parimal Suklabaidya tweeted, adding that he would visit the forest with wildlife officials on Friday.

Four elephant carcasses were recovered on Thursday, forest officials said.

India is home to nearly 30,000 elephants, around 60% of the wild Asian elephant population.

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