Jorhat, Dec. 24: The marauding elephant herd roaming the Upper Assam districts for the past two decades entered an interior village near Khowang in Dibrugarh district and scared the wits out of the villagers who had never had such a close encounter with wild animals before.
No one, however, was injured.
The terrified villagers were jolted awake around midnight by the animalsí trumpeting and the rumble their movement created and began running helter-skelter. The herd destroyed two houses and ransacked the granary of another.
Benu Phukan, a resident of the area, said people tried all night to scare away the animals by banging tin sheets and bursting crackers but the herd, which is apparently used to such noises, hardly moved a few paces.
The forest camp at Tilloi was informed and forest guards finally managed to chase the herd to forested areas by firing in the air this afternoon.
The herd had also wreaked havoc at Baghjan and Meleng in Jorhat district and the outlying saporis of Majuli last month.
Debomoni Dutta of Baghjan said the elephants had destroyed 10 to 12 houses and ravaged the vegetable fields, destroying winter crops.
A source said ravaging of the crops had been left many farmers in extreme penury, as they would not receive any compensation from the forest department before a year or two. This had forced many farmers to cut and sell trees on the sand bars or in their homestead to run their families. A large number of trees have also been felled to rebuild homes and granaries.
Dibrugarh district forest officer A. Deuri Bharali said the increased rift between humans and elephants was the result of blocking of elephant corridors.
Upper Assam conservator of forest S. Nayak said the herd, which had burgeoned from 10-12 members to around 70 now, made the annual trek to all these districts from the hills of Arunachal Pradesh. ďAs the herd has most likely crossed the Brahmaputra, there is no turning them back again to their place of origin in Arunachal Pradesh. Since the elephant corridor stretches over a vast territory, the herd makes this trek in search of food usually when the paddy ripens during winter and then returns to the hills again. We try to keep them confined to uninhabited riverine areas as far as possible,Ē Nayak said.
The official said more firearms and ammunition had been sought from higher authorities to contain the elephant herd, which had become used to the sound of blank firing.
In another incident, a woman was killed and four others injured at Rodali village in Golaghat district yesterday by a herd of about 60 elephants that had strayed out of the Nambor forest range in Karbi Anglong.