In a man-animal conflict, a newborn elephant calf died and a 33-year-old youth were killed at Pakhiband under Bhaudi beat office in Lalgarh forest range in Jhargram district on Friday. Forest officials said the newborn elephant was severely exhausted in the prevailing extreme humid weather conditions when the mother elephant was trying to push it back into the forest from a canal where it had fallen.

As there were hundreds of local residents trying to get photographs of the whole incident from very close range, the mother elephant was worried and she was trying to lift her calf from the canal quickly. The newborn calf could not withstand the exertion and it collapsed on the spot, said Sandip Kumar Barwal, divisional forest officer in West Midnapore.

The mother elephant then tried to call her partner and other elephants of the herd to rescue her baby, but they could not come close seeing the people who were taking photographs on their cell phones. Unable to rescue her baby, the mother elephant turned violent and she started chasing the locals. During this, a 33-year-old youth came in front of her and he was immediately trampled to death, Mr Barwal said.

The youth has been identified as Saimel Mahato of Bandgarh under Lalgarh police station limits. His body has been sent to the hospital for autopsy.

The carcass of the elephant calf was lifted from the site and it was sent for postmortem. The incident caused panic in the villages under Bhaudi beat office as it was feared the elephants may rampage through the area at night.

“We have asked the villagers to be alert and avoid going out of home at night. We have equipped them with torches and fire crackers to help them to fight off the elephants in case they enter the village again,” a forest officer said, adding villagers were also asked not to store grain or Mahua flower, an ingredient used in making country liquor, at home.

A herd of 34 elephants has recently entered the Lalgarh forest range area and they have now settled under Bhaudi beat office area. Last night, a herd of 12 elephants were continuously trumpeting.

Worried villagers kept themselves in their homes. This morning, they found that a mother elephant had given birth to a baby. This news spread in the locality soon and hundreds of people started to gather at the site to capture images of the new born elephant calf and how its mother was caring her baby.

A forest official said: “Crowd control has become a major problem. We keep telling people that the elephants can get violent. It is always safer to watch them in silence from a safe distance without disturbing them.”

Since the late 1980s, elephants from Bihar (now Jharkhand) have been entering Bengal during the monsoon.

The number of elephants and the duration of their stay in south Bengal have gone up over the years, worsening man-animal conflict in the densely populated districts of Midnapore, Bankura and Purulia. On an average, twenty people and five elephants die and hundreds of hectares of crops are destroyed each year.