An elephant in India smashed a house to bits in Olgara village in West Bengal's Purulia district on Monday night but when it heard a 10-month-old baby crying under the debris, it turned back and carefully removed every last bit of stone, brick and mortar from the infant's body before heading back to the forest.
It's all the more surprising because the lone tusker has killed at least three people in the last year, say forest officers. The family in Olgara village are still in awe. Mother Lalita Mahato said: "We worship Lord Ganesh (the elephant god) in our village. Still, I can't believe that the tusker saved my daughter after breaking down the door and smashing a wall. We watched amazed as it gently removed the debris that had fallen on her. It's a miracle." The child's father, Dipak Mahato, said they were having dinner around 8pm when they suddenly heard a "cracking sound" and then a huge crash from the bedroom.
"We ran over and were shocked to see the wall in pieces and a tusker standing over our baby. She was crying and there were huge chunks of the wall lying all around and on the cot," he said. "The tusker started moving away
but when our child started crying again, it returned and used its trunk to remove the debris." They took the girl to Deben Mahato Sadar Hospital. She has some external injuries from the debris falling on her but is not in danger. Hospital superintendent Neelanjana Sen said the infant is stable but they will keep her under observation for 48 hours.
"Unless people attack an elephant, these gentle giants do not harm human beings. They only come down here in search of food," Purulia DFO Om Prokash said. "What's really surprising is that this elephant left the little girl alive even after damaging the house. It seems to have a heart, too," Jhalda ranger Samir Bose said, adding that the lone tusker was last spotted resting in Ghoshra forest on Tuesday evening. A similar incident was reported in Jalpaiguri's Madarihat about six months ago when an elephant herd carefully removed a little girl from harm's way before smashing several houses.