India: Elephant Kills Woman, Returns to Attack Corpse at Funeral

This picture taken on May 11, 2022 shows Indian elephants in the Jim Corbett National Park at Ramnagar in India's Uttarakhand state. (Photo by Sebastien BERGER / AFP) (Photo by SEBASTIEN BERGER/AFP via Getty Images)
SEBASTIEN BERGER/AFP via Getty Images

An elephant trampled a 70-year-old woman to death in eastern India’s Odisha state last week, then returned to attack the same woman’s corpse during her funeral, the National newspaper reported on Monday.

Maya Murmu was collecting water from a well in Odisha’s rural Raipal village on the morning of June 9 when a wild elephant attacked her. The animal “trampled” Murmu, according to the Press Trust of India (PTI), and caused fatal injuries to the older woman. Murmu’s relatives brought her to a local hospital where she died from her wounds hours later.

Murmu’s family arranged a funeral for her at a Raipal residence on the evening of June 9, storing Murmu’s body outside during the ceremony’s preparation.

“[W]hen the family members of Maya Murmu were performing her last rites, the tusker arrived there suddenly and took the body from the pyre,” PTI reported on June 11.

“The elephant again trampled her dead body, threw it and fled. The last rites were conducted after a few hours,” the Indian news agency relayed, citing the account of an eyewitness.

The number of elephant attacks on humans in India has increased in recent decades, according to the National, which is a U.A.E.-based newspaper.

“As many as 3,300 people have been killed in attacks by wild elephants in the country in the last seven years,” the publication reported on Monday, citing Indian government data.

The National further observed on June 13 that at least four people were killed by elephants across India during the previous week. Odisha has recorded the highest number of fatal elephant attacks among Indian states in recent years, with nearly 600 people killed by elephants in the state between 2014 and 2021.

Continuing, the National noted:

India is home to the world’s largest population of Asian elephants, a species listed as endangered as their population has declined sharply over the years.

India has nearly 27,000 elephants in the wild, according to the last survey conducted in 2017. The numbers are declining amid shrinking forest areas, encroachment of habitats and poaching.

Various state governments are making extensive efforts to curb human-elephant encounters by tagging the animals with radio collars to alert locals of their movement, and raising awareness through campaigns which give tips on dealing with the animals if encountered.

Odisha authorities believe the elephant that killed Murmu on June 9 likely originated from the Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary, which is located 124 miles northwest of Raipal village. The closest forest to Raipal is the Krishnachandrapur Betnoti Forest, which is located just 13 miles west of the village.

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