Villagers run for cover as a herd of wild elephants charges towards them at Kurkuria, 45km from Guwahati. File picture
Dhubri, Dec. 26: Elephant expert Parbati Barua today said the jumbo herd that has been wreaking havoc in Assam’s Dhubri and Goalpara districts since two weeks now might be doing so after being spooked by something in the forests of Meghalaya’s Garo hills.
Talking to The Telegraph over phone from Guwahati, Barua said some kind of disturbance on the way to their natural corridor must have caused the elephants to behave like this and create havoc.
“They travel along their natural corridors around this time of the year in search of food and water and there is nothing unnatural about it. The herd will return to their natural habitat after some time. Something disturbing must have happened to the herd and this has to be looked into,” she said.
The herd has been on the rampage in villages along the Assam-Meghalaya border since December 14, killing six persons in Goalpara and Dhubri districts since December 19, besides damaging standing crops and homesteads in several villages.
The herd also destroyed 40 houses in Katli village under Kalaichar police station of Garo hills last night.
Anti-depredation measures taken by the Assam and Meghalaya forest departments to drive away the jumbos have proved futile so far.
Barua said the herd should comprise a little over 40 elephants at the most unlike the strength of 80-100 cited by the forest department.
She said she had never come across a herd of 80-100 elephants in Meghalaya.
She said loss of habitat in Meghalaya and the lure of paddy fields in the plains of Assam often led jumbos to come down to the plains and wreak havoc on human habitats along the way.
Dhubri divisional forest officer Muhibul Ahmed said villagers and forest guards of Garo hills, instead of sending the herd towards the natural corridor, drove them towards the forests in Dhubri district. “I have already talked to Garo hills forest officials and offered co-operation in driving the herd back to its natural habitat.”
Regarding compensation to the victims, Ahmed said an one-time ex-gratia of Rs 1 lakh each would be given to the kin of the three persons trampled to death by elephants on December 21, along with compensation for damage caused to crops and huts.