Wild Elephant Attack Leaves Man Dead

Wild Elephant Attack Leaves Man Dead

Several elephants have attacked two people across southern India in a 24-hour period, claiming the life of one man.

K Sambasivam, aged 55, was trampled to death early on Monday morning local time by a wild elephant in his hometown of Maharajakadai in the Indian province of Tamil Nadu, according to the newspaper The Times of India.

Only hours before, on Sunday evening, a 14-year-old named Sarath was seriously injured in an elephant trampling in the small tribal town of Pakkom in the province of Kerala, according to The Hindi. This town is around 190 miles west of the site of the other attack.

Elephants found in India are Asian elephants, which are classified as an endangered species on the IUCN Red List. There are only between 20,000 and 40,000 Asian elephants left in the wild, around half of which live in India. Despite being smaller than their African elephant cousins, Asian elephants are still enormous, weighing up to 8,000 pounds.

Asian elephants are usually docile creatures, but when provoked or feeling threatened, can be incredibly dangerous. Around 500 people are killed by the mammals in India alone every year, according to the country’s Ministry of Environment, Forest and Climate Change.

Attacks may be more common during the breeding season, when male elephants tend to be more aggressive, or when mothers have recently given birth and are more protective over their calves. “Elephants have strong social bonds, this being especially true of the mother-calf bond,” Jessica Turner, a veterinary science PhD student at the University of Adelaide, Australia, told Newsweek.

asian elephant
An Asian elephant on the road. Two people were attacked by elephants in south India this week, one of whom died.

ISTOCK / GETTY IMAGES PLUS

Sambasivam, who died from his injuries, was trampled by two of the elephants as he walked to some land he owned nearby. His body was taken to the nearby hospital for examination.

“Two wild elephants which had strayed into the area, attacked Sambasivam suddenly, and he died on the spot,” the deputy superintendent of police, C Sangu, told The Times of India.

Several of the villagers staged a sit-in protest on a nearby road, demanding that forest officials chase the elephants away from the village and back into the jungle. Only after the officials promised that they would attempt to drive the elephants away did the villagers disperse.

Fourteen-year-old Sarath was attacked by the elephant as he walked home from a wedding on Sunday night, accompanied by friends. His friends were unharmed, but Sarath was seriously injured, and was admitted to the Medical College Hospital in the nearby town of Kozhikode with fractures to his left ribs.

Elephant attacks are much more frequent in areas where elephants and humans interact regularly, which is becoming increasingly common due to habitat loss. This human-elephant conflict worsens as humans develop more of the elephants’ forest homes, forcing them into closer proximity to us. This is also being worsened by climate change, which results in further loss of the elephants’ habitats and water sources, meaning that the creatures venture into human areas in search of sustenance.

Elephants may also raid farmlands, trampling crops and destroying buildings in their quest for food and water. This enrages local villagers, and may trigger them retaliating against the animals, further increasing risks to both people and the elephants themselves.

A single elephant that was captured in January 2023 after trampling a man to death had been involved in 176 crop-raiding incidents and 13 cases of property damage, according to a 2022 Kerala Forest Department report.

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