An elephant in India made headlines for not only killing a woman, but for crashing her funeral to trample her corpse as well.
On June 10, onlookers were horrified to see the same elephant that had attacked and killed 70-year-old Maya Murmu, which grabbed her dead body from the pyre before trampling on it. The giant threw her body once more before leaving the site of the funeral.
Murmu had been fetching water in Odisha’s Mayurbhanj district in India when she was attacked.
The elephant had reportedly wandered off from its home in Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary before encountering the elderly woman.
Despite being rushed to a hospital after the attack, Murmu died from her injuries, according to Rasgovindpur police station inspector Lopamudra Nayak.
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Though elephants are typically gentle, majestic beasts known for their stellar memory, they can be dangerous to people when threatened, provoked or abused.
“Save The Asian Elephants” conservation charity founder and lawyer Duncan McNair made a comment to Newsweek that “endangered elephants can be deadly dangerous” when attacked, also noting that Asian elephants have been subject to extreme “torture and stabbing” by poachers and tourism industry agents.
Human-elephant clashes are not particularly rare in the Odisha district, and in India more broadly. Due to their sophisticated cognitive abilities, elephants have been known to carry out acts of revenge.
The endangered species’ habitat is also increasingly shrinking, putting their very existence into jeopardy, which makes clashes all the more common.
Last month, a 40-year old woman was trampled to death outside her house by an elephant in southern Tamil Nadu state’s Nilgiris district.
A few months prior, in March, a wild elephant attacked a woman in the forest of central Chhattisgarh state’s Bilaspur district. The elderly woman died in the incident, but her 8-year-old grandson, who was injured while trying to run away, survived.
Elephants are not only “cultural icons” throughout Asia — as described by the World WildLife Fund — they also play a critical role in the ecosystem, helping maintain the integrity of forests and grasslands.
Producing roughly 220 pounds of dung per day, they help spread germinating seeds, a process important for maintaining plant populations.