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Nepal police fire at foresters & jumbos

Siliguri, June 10: Foresters of Darjeeling district today filed an FIR with Naxalbari police, alleging that Nepal cops had fired at them and an elephant herd last night.

“A 100-member herd of elephants was going towards Nepal and reached the Mechi river last night. Hearing the news, our men rushed to the spot and tried to keep them within the Indian territory,” said S.B. Patel, the chief conservator of forests (wildlife), north Bengal.

“While they were steering the herd back into the forests of Kalabari near Naxalbari, the Nepal police, who arrived in vehicles on the other side of the river, started firing at us without any provocation. They fired at the herd as well and we suspect that some elephants were injured. Fortunately, none of us was hurt,” he added.

“The drive to block the elephant movement stems from the fear that if they cross the border and enter Nepal, the animals might be shot at or poisoned by villagers. There were such incidents in the past,” said Animesh Bose, the co-ordinator of the Siliguri-based Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation.

There were at least 10 guards who had gone to drive the herd back into the Indian territory around 12pm.

“We were being helped by 200-odd villagers, when we saw some police vehicles, flashing red beacons, approaching the road across the Mechi,” said a guard.

Suddenly, those on the Indian side of the Mechi heard shots being fired: the Nepal police were trying to thwart the elephants’ approach.

“We flashed searchlights and some shouted at them, indicating that we were driving the elephants back and they should stop firing,” an officer said.

“However, they did not relent and even fired at us. We dropped to the ground and saved ourselves,” the guard said.

“Our guards are frightened and might show reluctance to go to the border and ward off elephants in the future. We will inform the authorities in Calcutta and Delhi about the incident,” said Patel.

He added that if any elephant was injured in the firing, there were chances of the animal running amok. “We alerted the villagers to the possible elephant attack.”

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