Early 2014. Jit Munda was collecting leaves for a puja in a patch of jungle near a tea estate in the north of Assam's Udalguri district close to the Bhutan border. Suddenly, the former tea estate labourer realised a wild elephant was standing beside him. The adult male struck Munda down with his trunk, then stamped on his right leg, breaking the thigh bone. As Munda lay in agony on the ground, a few more wild elephants appeared, and then a female elephant charged and butted the male elephant away from the fallen man.
|About 80 per cent area of Sonitpur district's 12 RFs (which covered almost 1,000 sq km) have disappeared, the bulk during the troubled 1990s; almost 50 per cent of Udalguri district's 3 RFs and 1 wildlife sanctuary have disappeared. |
From 2001 to 2014, in Sonitpur, 146 wild elephants died (from all causes) and 245 humans were killed by elephants (half of those in tea estate areas). From 2005 to 2014, 48 wild elephants died in Udalguri (25 during 2012-2014); while from 2007 to 2014, 78 humans were killed (Udalguri was separated from Darrang district in 2004).
In entire Assam, from 2003 to 2014, 733 humans were killed by wild elephants, according to Forest Department figures. From 2001 to 2014, 225 wild elephants were killed by poaching (32), poisoning (37), electrocution (107) and train hits (49). When other deaths, including those caused by disease and "unknown causes", are included the figure goes up: for example, just from 2007 to 2011, a total of 270 wild elephants died in the state.