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Wild elephant rampages through city in northeast India, destroying homes and cars

A wild elephant rampaged through the Indian city of Siliguri, destroying scores of homes, cars and bikes but injuring no one. India's population growth has devastated elephants' natural habitat.

An elephant, separated from her herd and panicked, ran wild for several hours through a city in eastern India, destroying cars and wrecking homes, before finally being tranquilized by authorities.

People fled in panic, while others gathered to watch, mostly from balconies but also on the ground, as the 7,500-pound pachyderm flailed about, stomping on parked vehicles trying to find a way out of the city of Siliguri, about 900 miles east of New Dehli.

"The elephant was scared and was trying to go back to the jungle," said Papaiya Sarkar, a 40-year-old homemaker who watched the elephant amble down a street near her home.

Somehow separated from her herd, or possibly without one, the elephant apparently wondered into town from the Baikunthapur forest, crossing roads and a small river along the way.

Divisional Forest Officer Basab Rai said

the female elephant was likely searching for food when she came into town.

People threw stones at the elephant in a failed attempt to drive her away. Eventually, after almost five hours, forest officials fired tranquillizer darts to bring the elephant down.

"It was transported to Sukna forest bordering Siliguri town," West Bengal state forest minister Binay Krishna Barman said.

Population growth kills habitats

As India's population soars - now more than 1.25 billion people - cities and towns are rapidly expanding, at the expense of forested areas.

Wildlife experts say the destruction of elephant habitats is a major reason for the increased encounters in what is left of India's rural areas. Elephants and humans are increasingly crossing paths, and the result is hundreds of deaths per year for both species.

Straps connected to a crane and then wrapped underneath the female elephant before she was lifted onto a truck.

After being tranquilized, the pachyderm was returned to the forrest.

On Wednesday, another wild elephant trampled a farmer to death in the southern state of Tamil Nadu. The farmer had been sleeping in his paddy field when the elephant appeared, police told Press Trust of India.

Grimly, speeding trains also threaten India's elephants, as do

illegal poachers looking for ivory to sell on the black market.

The environment ministry estimates there are about 30,000 elephants across the country, confined to less than 20 percent of their historic habitat.

Worldwide, elephants have disappeared from some 95 percent of their historical range, which once stretched from northern China to the shores of the Mediterranean.

bik/jil (AP, AFP, dpa)

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