Dibrugarh, Feb. 26: Villagers living on the edge of Abhayapur reserve forest in Sivasagar today woke up to the sight of a pregnant elephant lying in a pool of blood, its tail, the tip of the trunk and right ear chopped off and taken away.
Though poachers are the prime suspects, criminals from Nagaland — the reserve forest shares a 20-km boundary with the state — could have also killed the elephant for its meat.The gory sight of the elephant with its ear hacked off and the rest of the trunk almost severed moved to tears even the villagers who have been enraged by the rampages of a herd of elephants in the area for the past few days. The slain elephant belonged to the same herd.
The villagers said they heard two gunshots around 9 last night, but did not venture out in the dark.
Moreover, we thought there could be militants around. But when we came out of our houses this morning, we saw this ghastly sight, Lakhi Bhumij, who was the first to spot the elephant carcass, said.
Lakhi was on her way to the forest in the morning when she saw the elephant lying in a pool of blood that spilled out from a deep gash around its trunk and neck.
For some moments I was numb with shock. Then I screamed and ran towards our house and woke up my husband (Narayan) and other villagers. It was a horrifying scene, she said.
Though the motive of the ruthless killing could not be ascertained, the killers could not take away much off their booty, although they apparently tried to as is evident from the wounds and the hacking of the entire trunk.
Subodh Talukdar, the ranger of Sonari, under which the forest reserve falls, said over phone that a team of forest and police personnel and a magistrate had gone to the spot for investigation.
No bullet marks have been found on the animal till now. We are trying to find out whether the elephant was shot dead or poisoned, he added.
A villager said the herd, comprising about 30 to 35 elephants, had been invading Janokipathar for the past three days in search of food.
There has been no rain for a long period and generally there is an acute shortage of fodder inside the forest during winter, another villager said.
Many villagers of Janokipathar, which has 23 families, all from the ex-tea community, paid their last respects to the elephant.
Sources said shortage of forest department personnel had encouraged poachers and timber smugglers to operate in the reserve forest.
The Abhayapur reserve forest, spread over 6737.98 hectares, has three camps at present — Lesai, Singlo and Kherbari, the last being 3km from Janokipathar.
Lesai is located inside the reserve forest while Singlo and Kherbari are on the periphery.
A section of armed personnel from the Assam Forest Protection Force is posted at Kherbari. Lesai has three unarmed forest personnel and one platoon of the Assam Police Battalion. Singlo has just four unarmed forest staff.
The forest department has abolished two camps, Godapani and Joymati, which used to be located inside the reserve forest, because of shortage of manpower.