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The present study was conducted to assess the microbial quality of water in forest waterholes in different seasons and its possible impact on wild animals, at Bandipur and Nagarahole Tiger Reserve forests in the state of Karnataka, India, during the year 2012 which evidenced drought, and the year 2014 which witnessed normal rainfall in these forests. The forests recorded the death of 39 wild elephants during April and May of 2012. One ailing elephant was confirmed to have high fever, diarrhoea, leucocytosis, and symptoms of colic. Water samples collected from major waterholes during the peak drought showed higher numbers of coliforms and several species of opportunistic bacteria including species of Vibrio and Campylobacter. In the year 2014–15, with normal rainfall, the death of less than 10 wild elephants was documented during April to May, 2015. We collected water samples from 20 major waterholes every month from June 2014 to May 2015 and assessed the water quality. We found that the microbial water quality improved in rainy season (June–September), started deterioration in winter (October–January) and became poor in summer (February–May). Though, the water during the summer of 2014–15 was equally of poor microbial quality as seen during peaks of droughts, the elephant deaths were relatively lower, signifying the role of normal rainfall in forests which provides the availability of fodder and water, which determines the general body condition and ability to resist opportunistic infections. We discuss the measures suggested and implemented from this study and their utilities at ground level.
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