Five rhinos die in park from anthrax poisoning with elephant safari cancelled

Elephant safaris have been cancelled at a wildlife park in India after five rhinoceroses died from anthrax poisoning in a matter of days.

Forest officials at Jaldapara National Park (JNP) in north Bengal said the safaris have been suspended until Wednesday following the deaths of the five rhinos in the park since Tuesday.

The state forest department has now deployed drones to find out if any other animals have died or fallen ill in the forest.

Jeep safaris will, however, continue to take tourists inside the park.

The cause of the anthrax outbreak is not yet known.

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"We had to suspend the elephant safaris until Wednesday as all the captive elephants are being vaccinated for anthrax after the death of five rhinos at JNP," chief conservator of the forest Ujjwal Ghosh said.

The JNP has 78 elephants, including captive and trained, with five used for elephant safaris and the rest used by the forest department for patrol duties.

"Every day around four to five elephants, each carrying four persons, used to take tourists inside the forest at least three times a day," Ghosh added.

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"This has been stopped until Wednesday. While on the one hand the elephants are being vaccinated against anthrax and would need some rest, we would also need additional elephants for sanitising the area and gear up our patrolling."

He added that jeep safaris are still being allowed.

JNP covers more than 200 square kilometres in the foothills of the eastern Himalayas and is home to the one-horned rhino.

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It has the highest rhino population after the Kaziranga National Park in Assam.

Forest officials have identified a seven square kilometre area in the park where the disease is thought to have started.

Around 13 rhinos live in the area, and park staff have now started vaccinating each of them.

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Park workers are using the elephants to reach the affected area and vaccinate the rhinos.

The rhinos are being treated from a distance with shots with a dart gun.

Reports say the rhino population had been recovering well in West Bengal, rising from a historic low of 22 in 1986 to more than 280 at present.

  • Animals

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