Migrating elephant from India kills 11 in Nepal

Migrating elephant from India kills 11 in NepalKathmandu, Dec 9  An enraged male elephant, which began its long winter odyssey in northeast India, has killed 11 people as well as two animals in Nepal in a classic illustration of man-animal conflict over habitat.

Dhanusha and Sindhuli, the two districts in Nepal's Terai plains that have borne the brunt of the recent killings, are now living in a state of panic with the administration carrying out a campaign through NGOs and local radio stations urging villagers not to walk alone or go near the forests where the pachyderm is hiding.

"We don't plan to kill the marauding elephant as it is protected under CITES (the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species)," said Yadav Dhital, forest officer at Sindhuli.

The elephant - named the killer beast by villagers - trampled to death three people in Sindhuli alone last week. All the three victims were male.

"One was a fisherman going to catch fish," Dhital told IANS. "One was going to tend his herd of buffaloes and tried to chase the elephant away. The third was a teen trying to worship the elephant."

Govind Katwal, an 18-year-old village boy, thought the wild elephant would be as tame as those found in circuses and southern Nepal's hotel resorts. On spotting the hulking beast, he went up to it fearlessly with a garland of flowers to put it round the animal's neck and worship it like the elephant god Ganesh.

He was snatched up by the irate elephant in its trunk and dashed to death.

In Udaypur district, from where the wandering and solitary animal reached Sindhuli, four people were killed, including two women and a seven-year-old girl.

In Sindhuli, the elephant also killed a cow and its calf, Dhital said.

The tense district heaved a sigh of relief this week when the animal seemed to have left. It went to Dhanusha, down in the plains, where it killed four more villagers, including two women and another child, reports said.

But it returned to Sindhuli Tuesday, Dhital said.

The animal is believed to have come from India's Assam forest following the great arc carved out hundreds of years ago by migrating elephants. It followed the path of the Kosi river to enter Nepal from the eastern districts of Jhapa and Sunsari, where however there was no havoc.

"Now we have to wait till it traces its way back home and returns to the forests from which it came," Dhital said.