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Wild elephants at large

Elephants on parade - but this small herd must be feeling lost and vulnerable, as they attack people who get too close. (PHOTO: DVB)

Staff from Burma’s Forestry Department are tracking six wild elephants that are roaming through central Burma this week. The officials say they want to transport the wandering pachyderms back to their native habitat in the Pegu [Bago] mountain range.

A report by state-run media said around 60 forestry staff arrived in the Mandalay Division town of Kyaukpadaung on Monday, bringing with them six tame elephants to lure the wild herd, as well as tranquiliser guns in case things get out of hand.

One local villager has already been killed in recent days when he got too close for comfort. Two others were injured in separate incidents.

Authorities have now warned local villagers not to follow, take photos or try to get close to the elephants as they may panic or act to protect their young.

The wild elephants emerged on 21 August in Natmauk in Magwe Division, and proceeded northwards before reaching Kyaukpadaung near Mount Popa National Park on 23 August.

Aung Nyein, a member of a local charity group, Myint Myat Thu Blood Donation and Ambulance Services, said the herd of six was sighted bathing in a pond near the village of Kantharyar in Kyaukpadaung Township.

He said a local villager named Pho Paing was killed and two others were injured by the wild elephants in Nyaung-U Township on 25 August.

“He [the deceased villager] approached a calf to take a photo. When the camera flash went off, another elephant whipped at him with her trunk and he flew into the air, before landing on the ground,” he explained. “Another villager was whacked by an elephant’s trunk, which broke his leg. Another was trampled when he tripped over while trying to shoo the herd away.”

At the time of press, 6:00pm local time in Burma, the herd was headed in the direction of Chauk, according to a DVB reporter at the scene.