A man was trampled to death in northeast India by an elephant after a crowd provoked a herd outside a forest reserve at the Morongi tea estate.
A video taken by Indian Forest Service official Parveen Kaswan — captioned “A human lost his life. I wonder whom to blame” — went viral across the country, garnering nearly 200,000 views. The tragedy occurred in the state of Assam, which has the second-highest wild elephant population in India.
Forest authorities identified the casualty as Pachkal Mura, 45. He is seen in the video running away from the elephant before falling. The elephant, which broke away from the herd, trampled Mura, who was rushed to a nearby hospital before succumbing to his injuries.
The incident took place on July 25 at around 5 p.m. as a crowd of tea garden workers gathered around a herd of elephants crossing the national highway. A honking vehicle seemingly agitated the elephants, as well as a man in a purple shirt who teased the elephants with yellow cloth. Mura was sadly at the wrong place at the wrong time when one of the irate elephants changed course and sought revenge.
“All formalities have been completed, including post mortem. A formal report will be sent to the higher authorities soon,” a forest official told Assam Tribune.
Many Twitter users were quick to blame the crowd, which it seems aggravated the elephants. One user tweeted, “Blame is on humans only for having disturbed habitat of those animals. We have intruded their space.”
Another chimed in: “Humans…I wonder why it is so difficult to live and let live.”
A third even suggested, “Could it be possible to construct Animal crossings I.e., Over Bridges, tunnels and underpasses?”
According to official data, over 500 people die each year due to conflicts with elephants, compared to 100 elephants. Assam has over a fifth of all the country’s elephants, and it is one of the states with the highest number of human deaths from elephant encounters. On July 14, the Assam government had informed the Assembly that 812 people have died due to man-elephant conflicts across the state in the last 10 years.
This is in part due to the close proximity of elephants to villages and towns in India, meaning that conflict can arise when elephants migrate or forage for food. Just last week, a 71-year-old man was trampled to death by a wild elephant at Durgabari in Assam. Police seized a female elephant for killing a 14-year-old boy in Assam earlier this month.
In May, Indian forest officials launched an investigation in Assam into the mysterious deaths of 18 wild Asian elephants, which locals suspect could have been caused by a massive lightning strike.