Sunday, December 17, 2006

Indians Hunt Down Killer Elephant Named After Osama Bin Laden

(Osama bin) Laden, a rogue wild Asiatic elephant that was wreaking havoc in Assam, was shot dead on state orders. A wildlife official said the 10-feet tall male tusk-less elephant was killed by a hunter at the Behali tea plantation in Sonitpur district, 240 km north of Assam's main city of Guwahati. 'Licensed hunter Dipen Ram Phukan and a team of forest rangers shot dead Laden as the elephant was moving around aimlessly and trying to enter a human settlement area,' wildlife warden Chandan Bora told IANS by telephone. 'Local villagers identified the elephant as Laden and our team verified the identity before shooting,' he added. The elephant, named Laden by locals after global terrorist Osama bin Laden, was proclaimed a rogue in July and authorities ordered that the pachyderm be killed by Dec 31. 'Laden was responsible for killing at least 14 people in and around the area where he was shot dead after a massive hunt,' Bora said. On Wednesday, the elephant had killed a woman near a reserved forest area.'Laden was a terror for the people. Two earlier attempts to kill the elephant had failed as Laden always managed to evade our forest teams,' he added. 'The killing of the rampaging elephant has come as a big relief for the locals.' In Assam, depredation by wild elephants is common. The last time an elephant was declared a rogue and killed by a licensed hunter was in 2004. During the past fortnight, herds of wild elephants have been terrorising several parts of Assam, especially in villages where tribals brew rice beer. Experts say wild elephants have been moving out of the jungles in search of food with more and more people encroaching upon animal corridors, leading to an increasing number of elephant attacks on villages. Elephants have killed 248 people in Assam in the past five years while 268 elephants have died during the same period, many of who were victims of retaliation by angry humans, said a wildlife department report released last month. Villagers often poisoned marauding elephants or drove them away by beating drums or bursting firecrackers. Assam has India's largest population of Asiatic elephants, estimated at 5,300, according to a wildlife census in 2002.