DhakaTribune
Sunday December 17, 2017 12:05 PM

Elephant runs through Balukhali refugee camp again

  • Published at 02:05 PM November 20, 2017
  • Last updated at 12:13 AM November 21, 2017
Elephant runs through Balukhali refugee camp again
New Rohnigya settlements have blocked elephant passages in Ukhiya and Teknaf |Mahmud Hossain Opu/Dhaka Tribune

Elephant attacks between Sept 17 and Oct 14 killed at least six Rohingya refugees and injured five others

Another wild elephant ran through the Rohingya refugee camp at Balukhali in Ukhiya upazila, Cox’s Bazar on Sunday night, but no one was killed this time.

At least six Rohingya refugees were trampled to death by elephants and five others injured in the permanent and temporary refugee camps in Cox’s Bazar between September 17 and October 14.

Ukhiya Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Md Nikaruzzaman said no casualties and little damage had been reported by the latest incident, which occurred when an elephant “appeared from nowhere” and ran through the Balukhali 2 camp at around 11pm on Sunday.

“The giant mammal stampeded a tube-well and four houses, leaving nobody physically harmed,” said the UNO visiting the spot soon after the incident.

“Later, the wild elephant fled into the hilly forest following a chase by the Rohingya living in the camp.”

It appears that the repeated encounters with wild elephants resulted after the erection of makeshift shelters in Cox’s Bazar’s Teknaf and Ukhiya upazilas for the Rohingya by blocking an elephant corridor and felling trees in the hilly area.

A 2016 International Union for Conservation of Nature study reads that there are 12 elephant corridors in Chittagong division, of which eight are located in Cox’s Bazar alone.

The study also says around 78 wild elephants live in the forests of Ukhiya and Teknaf areas in dry season. During the monsoon, the number drops to 48 as they leave the sanctuary in search of food.

The study also recommended keeping the elephants’ movement through the corridors uninterrupted.

Researchers and forest conservation officers said the refugees are settling in areas from Kutupalong camp to Balukhali camp which are designated as wild elephant routes. Moreover, rampant tree felling is confusing the elephants, leading them towards human settlements.

AHM Raihan Sarkar, associate professor of Chittagong University’s Forest and Environmental Science Institute, had earlier said that if the practice of establishing unplanned settlements on elephant corridors continued, it would not only increase human-elephant conflicts, but also cause the extinction of elephants in Bangladesh within 10-20 years.

“If their paths are blocked, the elephants will be forced to venture into uncharted territory, which may also cause behavioural changes,” he warned.

According to official estimate, 630,822 Rohingyas have entered Bangladesh up to November 19 to escape the latest escalation in atrocities against the minority community in Myanmar’s Rakhine state, which began in August.

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