Rescued elephants run amok, kill saviour in Sri Lanka

October 4th, 2008 - 6:02 pm ICT by IANS  

Colombo, Oct 4 (IANS) An elephant that had fallen into a jungle well with her calf and was rescued by villagers in Anuradhapura district of Sri Lanka ran amok and killed one of the saviours in the presence of helpless police and wildlife authorities.The incident occurred Friday at Kirirawa village in the north-central district of Anuradhapura, about 200 km from here.

“As they came out of the well, the elephants started chasing the villagers. The baby jumbo calmed down in a short while, but the cow elephant kept chasing a group of villagers and trampled one of them to death,” A. Bandara, a local reporter in Anuradhapura, told IANS over the phone.

Senior Superintendent of Police (SSP) Ranjith Gunasekara said a police team along with wildlife authorities rushed to the scene and helped the villagers rescue the elephants from the well.

However, he said it was unfortunate that the police team could not rescue the villager who was trampled by the cow elephant.

The situation turned ugly when angry villagers attacked the police team for not killing the elephant and saving the life of the villager.

“A police sergeant assaulted by the villagers was admitted to the hospital. We have arrested a villager for assaulting policemen,” Gunasekara said.

In Sri Lanka, the lives of elephants are interwoven with those of humans. They are a part of the history, culture, religion and tradition of the island nation, which has 20 million people and nearly 4,000 elephants.

But Sri Lankan authorities are struggling to maintain the balance of the dwindling elephant population following growth in human population and developmental activities.

Over 50 elephants are killed annually due to conflict with human beings, who are worried since the pachyderms not only destroy crops and houses, but also kill people.

Animal rights activists say the human-elephant conflict is the result of deforestation, development projects and cultivation.

Sagarika Rajakarunanayake of the Sathu Mithrayo (Friends of Animals), an independent animal rights group, said elephants “are generally people-friendly and known to act strangely only under conditions of extreme provocation and fear”.

Describing the incident at Kirirawa as tragic, she said human-elephant conflict in Sri Lanka “has been escalating in the recent past” and blamed the wildlife authorities for failing to control the situation.

Rajakarunanayake said the people living in areas adjoining the jungles “should be taught how to live with elephants”.

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