Monday, 21 May 2018

Fatal elephant attacks on Rohingya refugees push Bangladesh to act

Young boy becomes latest in series of casualties at Kutupalong camp in Cox’s Bazar, which lies on migration route long used by elephants

Karen McVeighand Dinakar Peri
Wed 9 May 2018 14.07 BSTLast modified on Wed 9 May 2018 17.26 BST

Bangaldesh has pledged to step up its response to a series of deadly elephant attacks at a refugee camp housing hundreds of thousands of Rohingya refugees after a 12-year-old boy was trampled to death.

Shamsu Uddin died instantly when an elephant attacked him after he had fallen asleep while guarding paddy fields with friends in Uttar Shilkhali village in the coastal town of Cox’s Bazar.
Three days later, a young girl was critically injured when elephants attacked Nayapara refugee camp, to the south of Cox’s Bazar.

Both attacks occurred outside Kutupalong, temporary home to 700,000 Rohingya refugees. The rising number of fatal elephant attacks – at least a dozen in the six months from October 2017 – tell a wider, tragic story of how deforestation, monsoons and the refugee crisis have left some of the world’s most vulnerable people at the mercy of wild animals.

Crowded together on a bare hillside at the mercy of the approaching rainy season, residents of the sprawling Kutupalong camp – mainly Rohingya muslims who have fled a brutal campaign of violence in Myanmar in August – already live in difficult conditions. But it also sits on several important migration corridorsbetween Myanmar and Bangladesh that elephants have used for centuries.

This year, the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) began a programme to raise awareness, setting up 56 watchtowers and 30 volunteer elephant response teams to warn residents when elephants enter the camp. As part of the initiative, people are made aware of what they should do if they encounter an elephant.

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