An elephant was found dead near a field in West Bengal's Jalpaiguri district on Sunday morning.

The tusker, between 18 and 20 years of age, was found in Goyerkata village and had probably strayed from the Sonakhali forest nearby, Jalpaiguri Divisional Forest Officer Sumita Ghatak told The Hindu over telephone.

'No injury marks'

“There were no injury marks on the elephant's body. But it is unlikely that it was poisoned, as no evidence of poisoning was found. Usually, if the animal is poisoned, it moves about restlessly, there is loose stool around, and there are signs of irritation and ulcers in its stomach,” she added.

After conducting the post-mortem, the doctors have made a preliminary observation that the animal may have died after it collapsed in a sternal position, Ms. Ghatak said.

The sternal position, where the elephant is “stretched,” is fatal for the animal if it stays in that position for a length of time. The elephant was found sitting with its entire body weight on its sternum (chest bone). This causes difficulties in breathing as the animal's diaphragm is unable to move.

“It is possible that the elephant missed a step, lost its balance and fell into the sternal position,” Ms. Ghatak said.

The incident comes a day after the death of an elephant under mysterious circumstances was reported from Dadra village in Paschim Medinipur district. Officials are concerned over the fourth elephant death in the district in the last three months. An inquiry team has been formed.