Vindictive Elephant Fatally Injures Woman, Makes Unwanted Appearance At Her Funeral

Photo Credit: Mark Kolbe / Getty Images
Photo Credit: Mark Kolbe / Getty Images

The World Wide Fund For Nature – formerly known as the World Wildlife Fund – states that around 300 people are killed annually in human-elephant encounters. However, few see the latter return to their victim’s funeral… That’s exactly what happened during the summer of 2022, showing just how dangerous such interactions can be.

Sri Lankan elephant walking along a dirt path
Photo Credit: ISHARA S. KODIKARA / AFP / Getty Images

In June 2022, India’s PTI News Service reported that 70-year-old Maya Murmu of Odisha, in the central east part of the country, had been killed during an encounter with an elephant. The elderly woman had been collecting water from a well in Raipal village when the creature, having escaped from the nearby Dalma Wildlife Sanctuary, attacked her.

Murmu was trampled by the elephant and transported to a hospital, where she died of her injuries. That evening, her family were mourning her loss by holding a last rites ceremony when the elephant reappeared and took the deceased woman’s corpse from the pyre. The animal proceeded to trample on the body and throw it, before fleeing the scene.

Asian elephants walking through a wetland
Photo Credit: BIJU BORO / AFP / Getty Images

Speaking with Newsweek, Duncan McNair, the founder of the conservation charity Save The Asian Elephants, shared that, while elephants can be dangerous when provoked, it’s surprising that this particular animal attacked, as there appeared to have been no provocation on Murmu’s part.

“Elephants are generally benign, and passive,” he explained. “They don’t rush out of nowhere to attack people that pose no threat to their safety, or babies or anything like that. [This incident] is surprising because it shows no provocation of the elephant.”

McNair added that the elephant might have still been in the area around the time of Murmu’s funeral and thus remembered her, saying, “It’s just possible that if [the elephant] was in proximity still at the time of the funeral, and that’s not clear, that it will have recognised the remains. And it may have seen or smelled that and it may have associated that woman with some catastrophe to it or its herd. That is quite possible.”

Elephant spraying itself with water
Photo Credit: ARUN SANKAR / AFP / Getty Images

As India’s population continues to grow, the natural habitat in which Asian Elephants live decreases, meaning there’s a likelihood that similar incidents will occur in the future as human-elephant encounters increase. The species is listed as endangered by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN), with India being the country with the highest population.

A number of factors have contributed to the increase in incidents, including deforestation and conflict within the nation. There is also a thriving poaching industry that sees poachers come into contact with elephants, so they may obtain their ivory tusks and skin, the latter of which is used in Chinese medicine.

Local farmers also have to contend with what’s known as “crop raiding” – when the animals venture from forested areas into sites where farmers have planted their crops. Enticed by the variety of foods, the elephants walk through the fields and eat, which can be detrimental to the livelihoods of those who planted the crops.

According to Wildlife SOS, this is among the leading causes of human-elephant interaction.

Elephant standing in foliage
Photo Credit: DIPTENDU DUTTA / AFP / Getty Images

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Reports state that the woman’s relatives were able to complete the funeral ceremony after the elephant left the area, albeit after a delay.


Clare Fitzgerald is a Writer and Editor with eight years of experience in the online content sphere. Graduating with a Bachelor of Arts from King’s University College at Western University, her portfolio includes coverage of digital media, current affairs, history and true crime.

Among her accomplishments are being the Founder of the true crime blog, Stories of the Unsolved, which garners between 400,000 and 500,000 views annually, and a contributor for John Lordan’s Seriously Mysterious podcast. Prior to its hiatus, she also served as the Head of Content for UK YouTube publication, TenEighty Magazine.

In her spare time, Clare likes to play Pokemon GO and re-watch Heartland over and over (and over) again. She’ll also rave about her three Maltese dogs whenever she gets the chance.

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