India: 150 hungry Elephants leave declining forests to raid villages for food

Gauhati — A herd of nearly 150 hungry elephants rampaged through a
village in India’s remote northeast, trampling to death a young family
as they slept in their hut, a resident and a wildlife official said
Saturday. The Asiatic elephants destroyed four homes in Assam state’s
Karbi Anglong village Friday night, said resident Rimi Marak.

herd was just too large. The villagers could do nothing,” Marak said.
A farmer, his wife and their 5-year-old daughter died in the incident,
he said. The herd left a nearby forest reserve in search of food
nearly two weeks ago, said state forestry officer M.K. Dhar. Forest
guards had tried in vain to drive the elephants back using
firecrackers and lighting torches, Dhar told The Associated Press. The
region is home to some 5,000 wild elephants, whose natural habitat has
been increasingly diminished by human development. Conservationists
say wild elephant attacks have killed more than 700 people in Assam in
the past 17 years.

“We take pride at the large elephant population in
our region, but the increasing man-elephant conflict following the
shrinkage in their habitat due to the growing human population is
turning out to be a huge challenge,” said Pradyut Bordoloi, a former
state forest and environment minister. Imagery by the National Remote
Sensing Agency shows that nearly 691,880 acres (280,000 hectares) of
thick forests in Assam state were illegally cleared for human
settlements from 1996 to 2000. In 2001, villagers in Sonitpur district
poisoned to death 19 wild elephants after the hungry animals feasted
on standing crops and demolished several homes.

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