A wild elephant strayed out of Baikunthapur forest North Bengal and went on a rampage in Siliguri for around seven hours on Wednesday, damaging over 40 houses and shops and trampling several vehicles before being tranquilised.
The male elephant was first spotted in Dabgram and Fulbari areas around 6 am, sparking panic among the locals who tried to chase it away by bursting firecrackers and throwing hot water on it.
Sources said forest personnel rushed to the spot and fired a tranquiliser dart, but it failed to have any effect on the elephant. As people started crowding the area, the tusker went deeper into the town through Chota Phapri, Asighar More, Eastern ByPass Road, Ektiasal, Isckon Mandir Road before reaching the busy Sevoke Road. The busy road had to be closed for traffic as a mob took over the street on the trail of the elephant, a forest officer said, adding that some people suffered bruises in the melee.
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“People flocked in thousands and tried to create a barricade. It could have been easily driven out otherwise through the Ektiasal area,” said Animesh Bose, programme coordinator of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation.
R Pradhan, Divisional Forest Officer of Baikunthapur, said the wildlife squad was twice on the brink of driving the animal away but the mob present at the spot proved a major deterrent. “On the third attempt, the elephant panicked and moved deeper into the town,” he said.
The elephant was finally stopped after about seven hours when it was hit by tranquiliser dart for the second time. As it got drowsy, wildlife officials lifted it onto a truck with the help of two cranes.
Additional principal chief conservator of forest P T Bhutia said the wildlife officials managed to prevent any major damage by the elephant.
The forest official said the elephant will be examined by vets before being released in Sukhna forest under Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary.