Sun, Jul 11, 2004 - Page 5 News List

Bangladesh asks India to retrieve raging elephants

RAMPAGE Officials said India must immediately remove 100 elephants which have killed 13 people and are destroying trees, roads and houses

REUTERS , DHAKA

India must retrieve about 100 marauding elephants feared to have killed 13 people and injured dozens after straying over the border, Bangladesh officials say, or they could be forced to kill the animals.

The Wildlife Society of Bangladesh has urged the Indian government to immediately take back about 100 elephants living in the Gozni area of the northern district of Sherpur, about 200km from the capital, Dhaka.

Unless the animals return to India, Bangladesh has the right to eliminate or destroy them with cooperation from the international community, the society said in a statement.

"We are all for the welfare of the elephants, but the herd is beyond control," Kazi Zaker Husain, president of the group, told reporters. "They are attacking people, destroying trees, roads and houses."

Officials fear that villagers angered by the elephants' attacks could try to kill the animals themselves.

Husain did not say how many people were killed by the elephants, but Sherpur residents and reporters said at least 13 victims died and 100 were injured in the two years. Villagers said they had spotted herds of up to 50 elephants.

The elephants came to the area from the Garo Hills area of India but could not return because forests on the Indian side were hastily cleared, Husain said.

"As a result the elephants lost their way to return to India and stayed inside Bangladesh for the last two years," he said.

Two Indian elephants strayed over Bangladesh's southwestern border recently, terrorized villages and injured several people.

Indian forest officials notified by Bangladesh chased the animals for days, drugged them and trucked them back home.

But officials feel dealing with a bigger herd would be a gigantic task.

Husain said Bangladesh does not have the capacity to feed the elephants or move them elsewhere.

"I have told the Indian officials that Bangladesh could not provide food or shelter to that huge number of elephants," Bangladesh's chief forest conservator, Anwarul Islam, told reporters.

There are more than 350 elephants in the hills and forests that sprawl over the 14,200m2 of the Chittagong Hill Tracts in southeastern Bangladesh.

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