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Foresters await nod to sedate herd - Jumbos camping in swamp

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Staff Reporter   |     |   Published 26.12.09, 12:00 AM

Guwahati, Dec. 25: The forest department is contemplating the difficult task of tranquillising a herd of rampaging elephants after an attempt to chase it away from human habitat failed.

The herd has damaged hundreds of acres of paddy land in the villages along the banks of the Brahmaputra.

A recent drive to chase it away had to be shelved after a school student was hit by a stray bullet allegedly fired by forest guards.

“We have written to the headquarters that the only option left is to tranquillise the elephants one by one and shift them to either Kaziranga National Park or Dibru-Saikhowa National Park,” the assistant conservator of forest, Jorhat division, Gunin Saikia, told this correspondent today.

Though it would be a Herculean task, it was the only option left with the forest department, he said.

“We have tried whatever is possible but failed; now the only option left with us is tranquillisation,” Saikia said.

The herd is now taking shelter in a swampy area full of elephant grass at Borkhelia under Teok police station in Jorhat district.

The herd of about 70 elephants takes shelter at the swamp during daytime and attacks human settlements as soon as night falls.

The Jorhat district administration has also started a project to build trenches around human settlements to keep the elephants away.

Saikia said the herd’s present location was ideal for carrying out a tranquillising drive and shift the elephants to Kaziranga and Saikhowa.

Kaziranga to the west and Saikhowa to its east are less than 150km from Jorhat town.

Recently, the Jorhat forest department has set up a special task force, comprising homeguards and local youths, to chase away the elephants but the attempt failed to yield results.

“The elephants get scattered into small groups as soon as we launch the attack. It is almost impossible to chase them away,” Saikia said.

Last night, a Royal Bengal tiger that sneaked into the swamp a couple of days back, attacked a bull elephant after killing a buffalo.

Villagers spotted the critically injured elephant this morning and informed the forest department, another forest official said.

“The tiger that killed two persons in Lakhimpur district a fortnight back, has crossed the Brahmaputra and is taking shelter in the swamp with the elephants.”

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