It was not sufficient for one wild elephant in India to crush a woman who crossed its path. In addition, the elephant returned to her funeral, dislodged her body from the funeral pyre, and trampled her once more.
The Independent reports that Maya Murmu, 70, was drawing water in the Mayurbhanj district of Odisha when a wild animal suddenly appeared and trampled her. Despite being transported to a local hospital, Murmu succumbed to her injuries and passed away.
Then, as her family gathered to lay her to rest, the wild elephant reappeared with a larger herd. It attacked the funeral, knocked Murmu off her funeral pyre, trampled her body once more, and discarded it. The Times of India also reports that a number of homes, including Murmu’s, were damaged by the elephants.
One villager told the Times of India, “We were terrified after seeing the elephant herd on Thursday evening.” Never before have we seen such a ferocious herd of elephants.
Murmu’s family was able to retrieve her body and complete the funeral despite their shock. The elephant did not return this time. However, questions remain as to what initially prompted the attack and why the elephant returned to attack Murmu a second time.
Experts believe that the elephant encountered Murmu after leaving the Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary and subsequently wandering. It is unclear why the elephant left the sanctuary, which elephants it prefers, or why it attacked Murmu with such ferocity and determination.
Lawyer and founder of the conservation charity Save The Asian Elephants Duncan McNair told Newsweek that elephants are typically gentle creatures. Nevertheless, they have been observed attacking humans when provoked.
McNair told Newsweek, “These endangered elephants can be lethally dangerous, especially when provoked or mistreated.” “Elephants are generally harmless and passive; they do not attack people who pose no threat to their safety, infants, or anything of the sort. “[This incident] is unexpected because the elephant was not provoked.”
He added, “If [the elephant] was nearby at the time of the funeral, which is uncertain, it is possible that it would have recognized the remains. And it may have witnessed or smelled this, associating the woman with a disaster or having heard about it. That is quite possible.”
Elephants and humans have fought more frequently in recent decades. And in recent years, both unexplained elephant deaths and elephant attacks on humans have occurred frequently.
According to The Independent, a number of elephant attacks on humans have occurred so far this year. In the Bilaspur district of Chhattisgarh state in March, a wild elephant killed a woman and injured her grandson. And in May, another woman in the Nilgiris district of Tamil Nadu was similarly killed by an elephant.
During the past two decades, 1,356 elephants have died unnaturally in Odisha, where Murmu was killed.
Why is it so? According to Newsweek, the development of land has brought wild elephants closer to humans, and climate change has caused them to wander further than usual in search of water. And when humans and wild elephants collide, the results can be fatal.
Wildlife SOS suggests that anyone who encounters a wild elephant should remain calm.
They wrote, “Please do not disturb or agitate the herd by shouting, pelting stones, throwing crackers, attempting to take selfies, photos, or videos, or throwing gasoline bombs in their direction.”
In addition, they stated, “The forest and the planet are equally theirs and yours, and you can share the same living space without harming the animal or putting yourself in danger.”