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.