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Elephants trample tea labourer, four cows

Jorhat/Tezpur, Dec. 16: Rampaging elephant herds killed a tea garden worker near Jorhat and four cows near Tezpur in two separate incidents since last night.

A labourer of Disoi tea estate in Mariani in Jorhat district was trampled to death by a herd of elephants in the wee hours today.

Raj Sabar, 35, who was walking home after attending a religious function at a relative’s place in neighbouring Dihingapara tea estate, came face to face with the herd that had strayed out of Gibbon wildlife sanctuary. He was killed instantly.

At Bessaria near Tezpur in Sonitpur district, a group of wild elephants caused extensive damage to homestead and standing crops, killing four cows last night.

According to officials, there were around 60 elephants in the herd, which were coming from the Sonitpur elephant reserve area in search of food after crossing National Highway 52 from the northern bank.

Narayan Mahanta, divisional forest officer of Sonitpur West division, told The Telegraph that villagers have been provided lights along with crackers to protect themselves from wild herds.

In another incident at Baghmari under Biswanath Chariali police station in Sonitpur, three persons were injured by wild elephants around 2pm yesterday, forcing the AAMSU to block NH 52 for two hours demanding protection to the villagers. Vehicular traffic was disrupted from Dhemaji to Biswanath Chariali. Herds straying out is a major problem for the residents of villages and tea gardens in surrounding areas of the sanctuary, which are among the major areas affected by man-elephant conflict in the state.

According to the 2011 census, the population of elephant in Assam is 5,620 compared to the 2007 figure of 5,281.

Elephant habitats in the state have been shrinking and figures released by the Centre revealed that Assam had 2.59 lakh hectares of forestland under encroachment — the highest in the country.

The forest department has planned to dig trenches along the boundary of Gibbon wildlife sanctuary and also install solar fences to minimise elephant depredation.

The Elephant Task Force of the Union ministry of environment and forests had recently suggested the setting up of conflict-management task forces in Sonitpur and other parts of the state but no steps were taken, sources said.

Official records show that 10,754 hectares of forest area in west and east Sonitpur forest divisions have allegedly been encroached upon, resulting in frequent intrusion of elephants into villages.