GAUHATI, India – Six Asiatic wild elephants were electrocuted as they went berserk after drinking rice beer in India's remote northeast, a wildlife official said Tuesday.
Nearly 40 elephants came to a village on Friday looking for food. Some found beer, which farmers ferment and keep in plastic and tin drums in their huts, said Sunil Kumar, a state wildlife official.
They got drunk, uprooted a utility pole carrying power lines and were electrocuted in Chandan Nukat, a village nearly 150 miles west of Shillong, the capital of Meghalaya state, Kumar said.
"There would have been more casualties had the villagers not chased them away," said Dipu Mark, a local conservationist.
The elephants are known to have a taste for rice beer brewed by tribal communities in India's northeast. Four wild elephants died in similar circumstances in the region three years ago.
India's northeast accounts for the world's largest concentration of wild Asiatic elephants with the states of Assam and Meghalaya alone estimated to have 7,000 of them.
"It's great to have such a huge number of elephants, but the increasing man-elephant conflict following the shrinkage in their habitat due to the growing human population is giving us nightmares," said Pradyut Bordoloi, former Assam Forest and Environment Minister.