TN, Kerala on high alert as wild elephant dies of anthrax

Forest departments of Tamil Nadu and Kerala are on a state of high alert after a dead wild elephant was found in the Anaikatti forest area which falls between the two states and was detected with anthrax bacteria.

The team of Coimbatore forest division on routine inspection found the carcass of a female elephant which, according to the officials was around 13-15 years of age.

Forest officials confirmed that the blood smear samples collected from the elephant had the presence of Bacillus anthracis, the bacterium that causes anthrax. The officials said that after the department went for a blood sample test when blood was found oozing out from the mouth and anus of the elephant. This is a typical sign of anthrax, according to officials.

After anthrax is confirmed in the elephant, the forest department of Tamil Nadu has conducted an online meeting with the forest department of Kerala as the forest area of Anaikati is shared between the two states. The area is also close to human habitation and most of those living in the borders have domesticated animals including goats, buffaloes, oxen and cows, and the animal husbandry department and the forest department of both the states are on high alert.

A senior forest officer with the Coimbatore Forest division told IANS, “We are in touch with the Palakkad forest division of Kerala as the forest area of Anaikati is shared between the two states and there is a high alert as this is a border area with large human settlements that have domesticated animals. With the domestic animals also grazing in the forest areas and with common water bodies, it has to be seen how we are going about the vaccination and other measures to be taken.”

Meanwhile, the carcass of the dead elephant will be cremated on Tuesday to prevent the spread of the infection. Directions have also been given by both the Coimbatore and Palakkad forest divisions to the rangers to monitor wild elephants and other wild animals in the forest range of Anaikati.

The Animal Disease Intelligence Unit under Coimbatore Forest Division is monitoring the situation. The Palakkad forest division in Kerala along with the state Animal husbandry department is also conducting a high-level meeting of forest officials, veterinarians, and other concerned officials on the vaccination of cattle in the border areas.

I. Anwardeen, Additional Chief Conservator of Forests (Coimbatore Circle) while speaking to IANS said, “We are checking with the Kerala Forest Department on whether any cases of anthrax were reported in that state recently.”