Wildlife officials in southern Nepal are hunting an elephant that has reportedly killed 11 people in the past two weeks — including one who was trying to worship it as an incarnation of Ganesh, the Hindu elephant god.
The adult male is thought to have crossed the border into Nepal from the tea-growing northeastern Indian state of Assam, and started its killing spree after being attacked and wounded by villagers trying to chase it away.
The rampage is one of the most extreme illustrations of how wild elephants in South Asia are increasingly coming into conflict with humans, as their natural habitat is consumed by farmland and industrial development.
The first killing was reported on Nov. 24, after which the elephant is reported to have trampled to death 10 people, including at least three women and a 7-year-old child — most of them while they were gathering firewood in the forest.
The elephant is also reported to have killed an 18-year-old man who tried to pray to it, and offered it a garland of flowers.
Several others have narrowly escaped, including Lilamaya Bhujel and her 4-year-old daughter, Devika, according to one Nepalese newspaper.
It said that Bhujel fainted at the sight of the beast, which then picked up Devika with its trunk, sniffed her and carefully put her down again unharmed.