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Pregnant elephant electrocuted in Assam

A pregnant elephant was electrocuted in north-eastern Assam’s Biswanath district on Tuesday, hours after an elephant “strayed into” the township of Numaligarh Refinery Limited (NRL) in eastern Assam’s Golaghat district.

Officials of the State Forest Department’s Northern Assam Circle said the 20-year-old elephant,was electrocuted at Kathonibari Sapori where the villagers had erected a fence to protect their paddy fields. The body of the elephant was found on Wednesday morning, and a post-mortem later revealed she was in an advanced stage of pregnancy.

The circle’s chief conservator of forests, P. Sivakumar said a man was detained for illegally energising the fence but had to be released due to crowd behaviour and the late arrival of police.

On Tuesday evening, an elephant had entered the NRL township through a wall that was partially demolished after the National Green Tribunal (NGT) had in 2016 ordered its complete demolition as it was part of the proposed Deopahar Reserve Forest.

The forest served as a traditional route for elephants and other wild animals moving to and from Kaziranga National Park nearby and fell within the No-Development Zone around the one-horned rhino habitat.

The NGT, hearing a review petition by local green activist Rohit Choudhury in August, had ordered NRL to demolish the 2.2 km concrete wall around its township and a golf course, but the refinery brought down a 289-metre stretch.

While there were reports of a herd having been temporarily trapped in the township and charging at the crowd that tried to chase it away, NRL officials said a lone elephant had come and gone without any fuss. “We are used to living with elephants, and the visit by the animal yesterday (Tuesday) was not unusual,” a refinery spokesperson said.

On Monday, the Gauhati High Court stayed the complete demolition of the wall, prescribing that status quo be maintained.

“I was sceptical about NRL demolishing the boundary wall on its own, as the refinery had been exposed for grabbing land in Deopahar in connivance with the Golaghat district administration. But I hope that the court would eventually order demolition of the entire boundary wall after hearing all the parties,” Mr. Choudhury said.

He also criticised the State government for not letting a task force committee monitor activities within the No-Development Zone as per an order by the NGT.

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