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Vaccination drive in Assam after anthrax kills elephants in Joypur rainforest

File photo for representation.   | Photo Credit: M. Sathyamoorthy

The authorities in eastern Assam’s Dibrugarh district have undertaken a drive to vaccinate livestock around the Joypur rainforest after anthrax was confirmed as the cause of the death of two female elephants a week ago.

This is the second case of anthrax in the State after two Asiatic water buffaloes died in the Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary in October 2019. The sanctuary, 48 km east of Guwahati, is often called ‘Mini Kaziranga’ owing to a similar landscape.

Anthrax is a disease caused by Bacillus anthracis, a spore-forming bacteria.

Wildlife veterinarians said the two elephants — one sub-adult about 10 years old and the other about 20 years — died after ingesting anthrax spores that can remain buried underground for 25-30 years.

“The carcasses of the elephants were found on the hilly Soraipung range of the Joypur Reserve Forest. They are likely to have ingested the spores while digging the earth for salt,” elephant veterinarian Kushal Konwar Sarma said.

Amit Sahai, Assam’s Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (Wildlife), said the field staff adhered to standard operating procedures to first burn the carcasses and bury the ashes deep inside the earth besides sanitising the affected areas.

“While our field workers have been patrolling the rainforest for detecting other animals that could be infected, the veterinary officials have undertaken vaccination of livestock that could be vulnerable,” he told The Hindu.

Mr. Sarma said anthrax was an endemic disease in India but was not known to have caused mass animal deaths. “The Assam government makes vaccines to prevent anthrax and these are administered to livestock when any situation arises,” he added.

In October 2019, the livestock around Pobitora Wildlife Sanctuary were vaccinated after anthrax was found to be the cause of death of two wild buffaloes. Anthrax was also said to be the cause behind the death of five rhinos in West Bengal’s Jaldapara National Park in February.

Anthrax has not been known to kill humans in Assam but about 30 people had died in north-central Assam’s Udalguri district in the 1990s after consuming meat of cattle that died of anthrax.

Joypur is a four-canopy rainforest that was initially a part of the Thailand rainforest network before getting isolated when the Indian subcontinent drifted northward.

The rainforest houses some rare species of flora and animals such as hoolock gibbon, panther, wild dog, stump-tailed macaque, clouded leopard and flying squirrel besides the elephant.

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Printable version | Sep 25, 2021 1:08:22 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/other-states/vaccination-drive-in-assam-after-anthrax-kills-elephants-in-joypur-rainforest/article33296288.ece

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