Elephant habitats shrink in India as encroachments increase

FILE- In this Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, a wild elephant flees after villagers set fire to grass to chase them from their Misamari village on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam state, India. Wildlife activists say human encroachment in the forests of northeast India have forced elephants out of their natural habitats, triggering conflicts with locals. Conservationists have urged the government to remove encroachments and free elephant corridors that are used by the beasts to move across forests in search of food. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath, File)
FILE- In this Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, women and children gather to watch wild elephants which entered Misamari village on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam state, India. Wildlife activists say human encroachment in the forests of northeast India have forced elephants out of their natural habitats, triggering conflicts with locals. Conservationists have urged the government to remove encroachments and free elephant corridors that are used by the beasts to move across forests in search of food. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, a police official stands guard on a railway track as villagers try to chase away wild elephants from their Misamari village on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam state, India. Three wild elephants from nearby Amchang wildlife sanctuary entered the village in search of food Thursday. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath, File)
FILE- In this Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, wild elephants stand amid grass as Indian villagers try to chase them away from their Misamari village on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam state, India. Wildlife activists say human encroachment in the forests of northeast India have forced elephants out of their natural habitats, triggering conflicts with locals. Conservationists have urged the government to remove encroachments and free elephant corridors that are used by the beasts to move across forests in search of food. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, a forest guard and villagers watch from a railway track as villagers try to chase away wild elephants from their Misamari village on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam state, India. Three wild elephants from nearby Amchang wildlife sanctuary entered the village in search of food Thursday. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, villagers set fire to grass to chase away wild elephants from their Misamari village on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam state, India. Three wild elephants from nearby Amchang wildlife sanctuary entered the village in search of food Thursday. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath, File)
FILE- In this Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, a forest official takes position as a wild elephant prepares to chase away villagers at Misamari village on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam state, India. Wildlife activists say human encroachment in the forests of northeast India have forced elephants out of their natural habitats, triggering conflicts with locals. Conservationists have urged the government to remove encroachments and free elephant corridors that are used by the beasts to move across forests in search of food.(AP Photo/Anupam Nath, File)
FILE- In this Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, wild elephants chase back Indian villagers who were trying to chase them away from their Misamari village on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam state, India. Wildlife activists say human encroachment in the forests of northeast India have forced elephants out of their natural habitats, triggering conflicts with locals. Conservationists have urged the government to remove encroachments and free elephant corridors that are used by the beasts to move across forests in search of food. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, a villager holds his dog and watches as others try to chase away wild elephants from their Misamari village on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam state, India. Three wild elephants from nearby Amchang wildlife sanctuary entered the village in search of food Thursday. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath, File)
FILE - In this Thursday, Feb. 9, 2017, file photo, passengers look from a running train as villagers try to chase away wild elephants from their Misamari village on the outskirts of Gauhati, Assam state, India. Three wild elephants from nearby Amchang wildlife sanctuary entered the village in search of food Thursday. (AP Photo/Anupam Nath, File)

GAUHATI, India — Wildlife activists say human encroachment in the forests of northeast India have forced elephants out of their natural habitats, triggering conflicts with locals.

Conservationists have urged the government to prevent encroachments and free corridors that are used by elephants to move across forests in search of food. In recent years, there have been many incidents where wild elephants have entered villages, destroyed crops and even killed people.

Forest official D.D. Gogoi said Friday that in the latest incident, forest guards had to set fire to wild grass to drive back three wild elephants that came out of the Amchang Reserve forest in Assam state.

Villagers pelted elephants with stones but were chased away by the animals until forests guards came to their rescue.

"It's an alarming situation. The elephants rampage through villages in search of food as their habitats are being overtaken by people," said Mubina Akhtar, a wildlife conservationist. "The government has to order the clearance of the elephant corridors."

According to the 2011 elephant census, there were 5,620 wild elephants in Assam. The state is preparing to hold a fresh elephant census next month, Gogoi said.

Elephants are increasingly coming into contact with people in India, as the human population of 1.3 billion soars and cities and towns grow at the expense of jungles and other elephant habitats.

India's elephants are also threatened by speeding trains and illegal poachers looking for ivory to sell on the black market. Last year, 67 elephants were killed in Assam, after 118 were shot dead the previous year.

Forests guards are also trying to drive away elephants from railway tracks near the Amchang reserve area.

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