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Wednesday, June 8, 2011

Crazed elephants kill security guard during three-hour rampage in Indian city

By Damien Gayle

Two elephants have been captured and will be returned to wild

Rampage: A wild elephant gores a security guard Mysore, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka

At least one man was killed amid widespread panic when two wild elephants went on a rampage across a southern Indian city.

The raging elephants left a trail of destruction across a suburb of the city of Mysore, in the southern Indian state of Karnataka, after they walked into town from a nearby forest, leaving residents running for their lives.

One man, a 55-year-old from the Bamboo Bazaar district, was trampled to death after he came out of his house to see what was going on.

Footage shown on New Delhi Television news shows the body of another man at the feet of one of the animals being repeatedly gored, butted and trampled.

The footage also shows an elephant angrily kicking a cow.

Karnataka state higher education minister S.A. Ramdas told the AFP news agency the elephants entered the city from a nearby forest early in the morning.

One elephant barged into a women's college compound and stalked the grounds, while the other wreaked havoc in a residential area.

Schools and colleges were closed for the day, said Mr Ramdas, and extra police were deployed as forest rangers and Mysore zoo staff tried desperately to contain the raging beasts.

Tussle: One of the elephants also attacked a cow as it caused havoc across the city

Terrifying: Onlookers can only flee as the wild beasts attacked everything in their path

Officials ordered residents to stay indoors and urged them not to throw stones at the raging elephants for fear of provoking them further.

The two young elephants came with two others from a forest about 22 miles from Mysore. The other pair remain at large on the outskirts of the city, which is 87 miles from Bangalore.

Every year hundreds of people across India die when wild animals wander into cities as their natural habitats shrink and they have to range farther for food.

Havoc: An elephant, with a tranquliser dart in its side, brushes past a car as it lumbers along a street, sending people fleeing in terror

Trail of destruction: The same elephant attacks a pair of motorcycles resting against a wall

Fear: Mysore residents were ordered to stay indoors, and urged not to throw stones at the beasts for fear of enraging them further

India's national parks suffer massive encroachment from people who live and forage for food in the forests or graze their cattle inside.

'Unregulated expansion of farm lands and increasing movement of people and transport vehicles through the elephant corridor are making the wild jumbos enter into villages and towns in search of food and shelter,' one official told AFP.

After a three-hour hunt, the two elephants were eventually brought down with tranquiliser darts and captured. They are set to be released back into the wild.

'Human-elephant conflict': A problem on the rise

Though they rarely stray into urban areas, elephant attacks are not uncommon in Karnataka.

The state - large parts of which are heavily forested, and even unexplored - supports 25 per cent of India's total elephant population.

They are even honoured as the state animal and, thanks to conservation efforts, their numbers have risen quickly in recent years.

Beautiful, intelligent... but deadly: Elephant attacks are all too common in Karnataka, but are rarely as dramatic as the rampage in Mysore

But as the massive creatures' habitat has been gradually destroyed tragic encounters between humans and elephants have increased.

In Karnatka, elephants are mainly concentrated in a number of national parks, several of which are clustered just south of the city of Mysore.

But India's national parks suffer massive encroachment from people who live and forage for food in the forests or graze their cattle inside.

Because forest cover is shrinking, elephants have no other option but to raid villages and farms in search of food.

As well as killing and injuring people, elephants destroy homes and cause massive damage to crops in the areas they stray into.

Loss of habitat: Indian forestry officials and villagers crowd around the carcass of an elephant, one of seven killed by a goods train over a railroad track

In 2005 the Journal of Nature published an article theorising that today’s elephant populations suffer from 'species specific stress' originating from trauma.

Culling and poaching mean that older animals are often missing from the delinquent elephant groups involved in tragedies.

Today these large animals live in what some conservationists say are little more than animal concentration camps, and there is no quick solution to what has been dubbed the 'human-elephant conflict'.



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