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Elephant kills 70-year-old and then returns to trample her corpse at funeral in Odisha, India

An elephant in eastern India killed a 70-year-old woman and then returned to her funeral to trample her corpse.

The tragic incident occurred in Odisha state on Thursday, said police on Saturday.

Seventy-year-old Maya Murmu was at a tubewell drawing water in Mayurbhanj district’s Raipal village when the wild elephant appeared out of nowhere.

Authorities said the elephant had strayed from the Dalma Wildfire Sanctuary, nearly 200km away from Mayurbhanj.

After being trampled, Murmu was taken to hospital where she succumbed to her injuries, local police officer Lopamudra Nayak was quoted as saying to the Press Trust of India news agency.

Local reports said when family members gathered for the funeral and were in the middle of performing last rites for the woman, the same wild elephant appeared, lifted Murmu’s body from the funeral pyre and trampled it again.

This incident shocked those present at the funeral, local media reported.

Murmu’s family could finish performing the last rites for her only when the elephant left after a few hours.

It remains unclear if the elephant harmed anyone else at the funeral.

Human-elephant conflicts are a common occurance in Odisha. Intensive industrial activity in the mineral-rich state has increased human encroachment in animal habitats, increasing chances of encounters between villagers and elephants.

A worrying trend in the state has also been a spike in the number of unnatural deaths of elephants. At least 1,356 elephants have died in Odisha since 2000-01, according to data provided by the state’s chief wildlife warden, reported the IANS news agency.

At least 42 elephant deaths were recorded in the state in the span of just seven months from April to October last year.

Many other incidents of human-elephant conflict have been reported from other parts of the country as well.

In March this year, another woman was killed in an attack by a wild elephant at a forest in central Chhattisgarh state’s Bilaspur district. Her eight-year-old grandson was injured while trying to run away from the spot, police had said at the time.

In May, a 40-year-old woman was trampled to death by an elephant outside her house near Gudalur in southern Tamil Nadu state’s Nilgiris district.

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