Tuesday 17 October 2017

Elephants kill four Rohingya refugees in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh.

A mother and her three children have died and several other people have been injured, including the children's father, after a herd of Elephants entered the Balukhali Refugee Camp in the Chittagong Hills near Ukhiya in the Cox's Bazar District of Bangladesh on Saturday 14 October 2017. This is the third such incident in recent weeks, with at least seven deaths having occurred in the previous incidents.

The Balukhali Refugee Camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh. NPR.

Over half a million Rohingya Muslims have fled Myanmar in the last two months, the result of a (somewhat uneven) conflict with the Myanmar armed forces,which have targeted whole communities in response to alleged attacks on security posts, a conflict that has been widely condemned as ethnic cleansing. The majority of these refugees have arrived in Bangladesh, a country that has accepted them, but struggled to meet their needs. Thus many of the refugees have settled in makeshift camps in districts close to the border with Myanmar, many of which have been cleared from forest, thus both creating space for new homes and providing building materials. 

Such camps are not good for wildlife in the areas where they are built. Many animals will simply flee such incursions, or, if unable to, are likely to end up in the cooking pots of hungry migrants. Elephants, however, are a somewhat different proposition. They are large animals, not used to being challenged by other animals in their home ranges, and typically live in matriacrchal herds of up to a hundred, with herds holding large territories, criss-crossed by Elephant trails. A herd of Elephants encountering a new Human settlement, particularly a hurriedly-built, poorly defended structure, are unlikely to attempt to go round it, and are quite likely to maximise the damage they cause to show their displeasure.

Herd of Elephants in Assam State, India. Perfect World Foundation.

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