|(From top) The tusker at Srinathpur Tea Estate; the animal chases a forest guard; local people chase the animal in a paddy field in Shitkata, near Alipurduar, on Monday. Pictures by Anirban Choudhury
Alipurduar, June 9: A wild elephant from the Buxa Tiger Reserve today repeatedly chased villagers and foresters in Alipurduar, possibly confused as mobs gathered around it and pelted it with stones and sticks.
There are several instances of elephants, separated from their herds, chasing people or damaging huts and crops in villages near forests. The tusker near Alipurduar town emerged from the Buxa forest repeatedly and broke huts and damaged police and foresters’ vehicles. No one was injured.
Till late tonight, efforts were on to drive the animal back into the Buxa but to no avail.
Around 8pm, the tusker was seen at a crowded market in Samuktala, 11km from Alipurduar town.
The foresters brought two kunkis — trained elephants — at night to drive the tusker away.
Bimal Roy, one of the villagers who saw the tusker, said there was no point “blaming the forest staff” for being unable to drive the tusker away. “The main problem is the mob. Unnecessarily, a large number of people started running behind the animal. They threw stones and small sticks at it.” He said if the animal was from some other part of Buxa, “it could not detect the right path towards the forest”.
The animal was spotted in Panbari village, which is 11km from Alipurduar town, around 5.30am today.
When the villagers saw the animal, they started chasing it. The elephant broke two huts in the village.
The jumbo then entered another village called Paglarhat.
Foresters reached this village by 7am and tried to drive the elephant back into the forest but it started chasing them instead.
After damaging five huts partially in Paglarhat, the tusker entered Srinathpur Tea Estate.
Hundreds of local residents came out to stare at the beast and then again started chasing the tusker. People pelted the animal with stones and sticks.
In order to scare away the animal, the forest guards started firing in the air but after hearing the sound of the shots, the animal started chasing the foresters again.
The jumbo damaged five huts in a village in Srinathpur.
People were seen running across paddy fields to chase the elephant in Shitkata village.
The foresters tried to drive the animal into Buxa several times in the afternoon, but every time the tusker returned. As people were sometimes going too close to the animal, it created more hurdles for the foresters.
Sujit Sarkar, a local resident of Srinathpur Tea Estate, said: “We heard that a wild tusker had entered Paglarhat village from Panbari forest. We started shouting and people gathered in front of our garden factory. The elephant entered our garden, damaged four forest vehicles and two police vehicles. Hundreds of people were running after the animal and many had a narrow escape.”
Apurbo Sen, the deputy field director of BTR (West), said: “If local people had co-operated with the foresters, the elephant would have been sent back into the forest.”