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Jumbos trample young couple

Tezpur, March 6: A young couple were trampled to death in their sleep by a herd of wild elephants at Silapathar in Sesu Dighali village of Dhemaji district, near the Assam-Arunachal Pradesh border on Wednesday night.

Ajit Kuli, in his thirties, and Sarbani Kuli, 30, were asleep at their residence when the herd, that came from the Arunachal Pradesh side in search of food, attacked their house. They died on the spot.

Sources said the elephants had been wreaking havoc in the village for the past couple of days.

Silapathar is about 400km from Tezpur and 580km from Guwahati.

Elephants from the nearby Pova reserve forest in Arunachal Pradesh have been damaging houses and crops in Jonai subdivision for the last six days.

Already affected by floods, a perennial problem in Dhemaji, residents of the district are now living in fear of the marauding tuskers.

“Wild elephants wreak havoc in the area on a regular basis. Sometimes, they come from the nearest reserve forest and sometimes from the hills of Arunachal Pradesh,” Sanjiv Konwar, a farmer from Sesu Dighali, told this correspondent.

Elephants regularly come down to Assam because of insufficient food in the hills.

The Assam forest department has failed to bring the situation under control although it has organised various awareness programmes and initiated innovative steps like fodder plantation, bamboo plantation and electric fencing to stop elephants from entering human habitats.

“We are doing our best but haven’t yet got the desired results,” a senior forest official said.

“Along the Assam-Arunachal border in Sonitpur, Lakhimpur, Dhemaji and Udalguri districts, people have encroached upon forestland that are a part of elephant corridors,” he said, adding that political intervention was hampering the work of evicting the illegal encroachers. Chasing a herd from one place to another is no solution, he said.

“Elephants wander into human settlements in search of food because of dwindling forest cover. The problem is not the elephant population but the enormous contraction of the animal’s territory,” the official said, adding that the problem would continue unless forest cover is retained.


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