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Elephants kill three of a family

- Second fatal attack in Dhubri in 3 days, concern over track deaths

Dhubri, Dec. 22: Two women and a toddler of a family were trampled to death by a herd of elephants in Puthimari village along the Assam-Meghalaya border under Mancachar police station of Dhubri district last night.

The deceased were identified as Jeharmoni Hasong, 55, Turaimoni, 35, and Rabiakar, 3, while Swapna Hasong, who sustained serious injuries, was admitted to the Mancachar public health centre.

Ratnakar Hasong, 55, a villager, said at least 20 houses in Puthimari and 15 houses in Teldhala village were totally damaged by the jumbos.

“We have not been able to sleep at night for the last nine days as the elephant herd enters our village during dusk and leaves a trail of devastation. We are unable to stop them,” Ratnakar said.

A source in Dhubri forest division said the herd, which comprises 80 to 100 elephants from Meghalaya, entered the district a week ago and has caused havoc in Puthimari, Teldhala and other adjoining villages. Altogether 20 forest guards, headed by a forest range officer, have been deployed to drive away the herd but they have failed to send them back, he added.

“The scarcity of food and water has forced the herd to descend from its natural habitat to the plains of Dhubri district,” a forest official said.

The Dhubri divisional forest officer, Muhibul Ahmed, said the herd entered the district on December 14. “In addition to the forest staff and guards who are already there, I have also sent two assistant conservators of forest to Mancachar today to take up anti-depredation measures.”

Ahmed said he had tried to contact the forest officer of Tura to take steps to push the elephants back to their natural habitat. “If the Meghalaya forest department had taken steps when the herd descended into Garo hills villages, they could have been sent back. Instead, the herd was pushed this way,” he said.

An official source said there were no elephants in the reserve forests under Dhubri forest division but now forest officials are contemplating to send a proposal to the state government to take up anti-depredation measures. Three persons had also been trampled to death on December 19 by a straying jumbo under Goalpara forest division.

On the other hand, a campaign is being undertaken in the fringe villages of Kokrajhar through street plays and mime, to create awareness on conservation of forests and wildlife among locals. The campaign is being carried out by the International Fund for Animal Welfare and the Wildlife Trust of India, Haltugaon forest division, Kokrajhar along with Jharbari Nwgwr Eco-Tourism Society, a local NGO.

The team will highlight the encroachment and illegal felling of trees and the man-elephant conflict. “The mission is to promote appreciation and conservation of nature among the people in the greater Manas area,” said Panjit Basumatary, a veterinarian with the wildlife trust.

C. Ramesh, district forest officer, Haltugaon division, said, “The programme is aimed at changing the thought process of the forest department and among villagers who live on the forest fringes.”