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Killer elephant halts West Bengal rampage to unearth baby girl

Date

Deborah Gough

It appears the cries of a baby are too much to bear, even for a rampaging elephant.

A killer tusker elephant – a wild elephant with tusks – was on a fresh rampage through a West Bengal village on Monday when it stopped to carefully unearth a crying baby girl beneath the rubble of the house it had begun to demolish.

The 10-month-old's father, Dipak Mahato, told the Times of India that he and his wife were having dinner at about 8pm when they heard a "cracking sound" and then a huge crash from the bedroom.

"We ran over and were shocked to see the wall in pieces and a tusker standing over our baby," Mr Mahato said.

"She was crying and there were huge chunks of the wall lying all around and on the cot. The tusker started moving away but when our child started crying again, it returned and used its trunk to remove the debris."

The Times of India reported that the tusker, which had killed three people, carefully removed every last bit of stone, brick and mortar to uncover the baby before heading back to the forest.

The baby's mother, Lalita Mahato, said: "We worship Lord Ganesh [the elephant god] in our village. Still, I can't believe that the tusker saved my daughter after breaking down the door and smashing a wall. We watched amazed as it gently removed the debris that had fallen on her. It's a miracle."

The baby was taken to hospital with external injuries from the falling debris but was "in no danger".

Conflict between humans and elephants in West Bengal's Purulia district has risen over the past few years. Land-use patterns have blocked elephants' traditional migration routes. Herds routinely raid farms and villages and smash houses, according to the Times of India.

Local forest ranger Samir Bose said the same elephant had killed three people in the last year and damaged 17 homes in three village areas.

"What's really surprising is that this elephant left the little girl alive even after damaging the house," Mr Bose said.

"It seems to have a heart, too," he said.

Mr Bose said the lone tusker was last spotted resting in a nearby forest on Tuesday.

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