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Dhaka Tribune

3 killed in Chittagong elephant attack

A herd of wild elephants rampaged through Popadia, Sripur Kharandwip, and Kodurkhil of the upazila on Sunday morning

Update : 24 Nov 2019, 12:49 PM

Three men in their sixties have been killed in an attack by a herd of rampaging elephants in Boalkhali upazila of Chittagong.

The deceased are Zaker Hossain, 63, Md Taher, 65, and Abdul Mabud, 60.

A herd of wild elephants rampaged through Popadia, Sripur Kharandwip, and Kodurkhil of the upazila on Sunday morning.

Confirming the matter, Boalkhali Upazila Nirbahi Officer (UNO) Achhiya Khatoon said: "The elephants also killed a cow and destroyed two nomes."

“Steps will be taken to compensate the affected people through the forest department,” the UNO said.   

Chittagong Medical College Hospital (CMCH) police outpost Assistant Sub-Inspector (ASI) Alauddin Talukder said Taher and Mabud died on the spot.

"Zaker was pronounced dead on arrival at the CMCH," ASI Alauddin added.

Lohagara UNO Tauseef Ahmmed said the wild elephants raided crop fields and damaged four acres of croplands in Lohagara a few days ago.

“The invasion of wild elephants  rises particularly during paddy harvesting season,” said Farid Uddin Talukder, sadar range officer of the Wildlife Management & Nature Conservation Division, Chittagong.

“As far as we are concerned, Boalkhali and Lohagara upazilas of Chittagong have been invaded by the wild elephants. Elephants can hardly resist the temptation of ripe paddy in the crop fields. If not disturbed, there is nothing much to worry about the rampaging wild elephants as they will move away on their own after two or three days,” he added.

Abu Naser Md. Yasin Newaz, Divisional Forest Officer (DFO), Wildlife Management and Nature Conservation Division, Chittagong, told the Dhaka Tribune that the wild elephants behave violently if they are disturbed.

“A herd of eight wild elephants including three calves have been wandering around Boalkhali for the last few days. Elephants are very protective of their calves, so it is not unusual for them to behave violently if disturbed,” said the DFO.

“Any sort of overreaction shown by people may result in human casualties. The elephants will move away after damaging some crops. We will give proper compensation to the affected people for any damage done to the crop fields or dwellings. So, there is no need to panic here,” added the DFO.

Food shortage in forests forces wild elephants to raid crops  

According to an IUCN publication, “Status of Asian Elephants in Bangladesh”, lack of food in the forests forces the elephants to enter into crop fields and people’s households. 

When elephants invade crops and settlements, people defend their property by driving them away using fire, guns, and bombs, which causes deaths and injuries on both sides.

Speaking to the Dhaka Tribune, renowned wildlife conservationist Dr Reza Khan said that shortage of food and lack of sufficient foraging ground in the forest are broadly responsible for the recent rise in human and elephant conflicts in the country.

“Elephants eat roots, grasses, fruit, and bark. An adult elephant can consume up to 300 pounds of food in a single day. But due to deforestation and changing patterns in forestry, there is a severe shortage of natural foods for the elephants and many other forest dwelling animals,” said Dr Khan.

“To reduce human-elephant conflicts, the government must ensure sufficient food is available in the forest, including summer season crops that will keep the elephants inside forests, and provide salt and mineral peat, far away from human habitation. A sufficient supply of freshwater during the lean months in the form of ponds holding rain water,” is needed, added the wildlife expert.  

Deterrence methods

The methods frequently used by the villagers to scare away raiding elephants with bright lights and loud noises (shouting, drumming, and bamboo cracking) are time consuming and can hardly prevent elephants from raiding crop fields.     

An IUCN publication, “Human-Elephant Conflict Mitigation Measures: Lessons from Bangladesh,” divides technologies to reduce the risk of human-elephant conflicts into three broad categories.

The first category includes cultivation of non-preferred crops for elephants, bio-fencing, solar electric fencing, chili rope, watch tower, and setting up an early warning system.

The second category is improving elephant habitats by establishing salt licks and plantations for elephants.

The third category is organizing human communities living in elephant ranges into small groups of  “Elephant Response Teams”.

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