Outrage over baby elephant’s killing in Assam

Wednesday, October 27, 2010

GUWAHATI - Wildlife experts and conservationists Wednesday were outraged over the brutal killing of a wild elephant calf that was clobbered to death by irate villagers after it entered a human settlement area of Assam.

More than 200 villagers, armed with sticks, bamboo poles, and ropes went berserk charging the baby elephant along a paddy field in Morigaon district’s Gubah village, about 60 km east of Assams main city of Guwahati in India’s northeast.

The incident took place Tuesday in front of at least two armed personnel, a forest ranger and a policeman, with the more than hour long gory drama filmed by an amateur videographer.

This is an outrageous incident, it is purely barbaric to find villagers literally torturing the helpless elephant to death and that too in front of two security people, Kushal Konwar Sarma, a noted elephant expert who also teaches at the College of Veterinary Science in Guwahati, told IANS.

Images beaming on both local and national TV channels were disturbing - villagers surrounding the calf from all sides and people literally pulling the tail and others attacking the elephant with sticks. The calf finally gave up on its fight to escape with the villagers tying its legs with a nylon rope.

This was an inhuman act and need to be condemned in the strongest possible term. The government should hold an enquiry into the matter and punish all those involved in the act, Bibhab Talukdar, secretary general of Aaranyak - a frontline wildlife conservation group, said.

State Forest and Environment Minister Rockybul Hussain said he would visit the area to personally investigate the matter.

I would visit the spot and find out how it all happened, the minister said.

Human-elephant conflict in Assam has reached alarming proportions. Only a fortnight ago, villagers poisoned to death at least four wild Asiatic elephants by lacing toxic chemicals in homemade moonshine.

In 2009, four elephants were poisoned to death by angry villagers after the pachyderms went on a rampage feasting on paddy fields and entering human settlement areas, tearing apart homes and killing at least two people.

Experts say wild elephants have been moving out of the jungles with people encroaching upon animal corridors leading to an increasing number of elephant attacks on villages.

A shrinking forest cover and encroachment of elephant corridors have forced the pachyderms to stray out of their habitats into human settlement areas, Sharma said.

In 2001, close to 40 elephants were poisoned to death allegedly by the villagers.

A recent report by the wildlife department said wild Asiatic elephants have killed about 279 people in Assam since 2001 while 289 elephants have died during the same period — many of them victims of retaliation by angry humans.

The last elephant census carried out by wildlife authorities recorded about 5,500 elephants in Assam, more than half of Indias count of 10,000.

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