Human-eating elephants

Published: Monday 15 February 1999

Crossing the river in Assam<sc IN THE first two weeks of January, more than 20 people have been killed by wild elephants in different parts of Assam. What has alarmed the forests officials are the reports appearing in the regional media that some elephants have even turned into human-eaters. Even though it is very unlikely it has been reported that in at least three villages close to the Kaziranga National Park and in the northern district of Sonitpur, the animals known to be strict herbivores, were eating human flesh.

"I saw two persons, one at Umrangsu in Karbi Anglong district and the other in Rangagora area in Sonitpur district, half of whose bodies were eaten up by elephants," said a local wildlife expert K K Sarnia. According to him, this can also be due to the shrinking forest habitat and certain biological reasons.

"When there is an increase in the sex hormones in adult male elephants, the animal generally goes berserk. Very often there is a behavioural change as well as a change in eating habits," said Sharma. Says Chief Wildlife Warden S Doley, "Shrinkage of habitat and increase in their numbers in the last decade have led to alarming behavioural changes in elephants of Assam."

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