Myanmar: Pushed from their forest home by encroaching farm land, wild elephants are driving fearful villagers in a Myanmar township to seek refuge in tree houses while the animals storm their rice paddies looking for food.
The elephants have trampled crops, destroyed homes and even, villagers say, killed people in their path — forcing families in Kyat Chuang to build new shelters made of wood and bamboo on higher ground.
“We have had to move our huts into the trees, so we are safe,” explained San Lwin, who dashes several metres up a tree to his thatch-roofed shelter when the elephants are near.
Villagers in Kyat Chaung, a farming community 100 kilometres north of Yangon, they yearned for the days before the elephant rampages started three years ago.
Now they scamper up home-made bamboo ladders to their elevated huts whenever they hear the thundering sound of elephant feet, which is usually several times a week.
“We want them to be taken away … so we can live peacefully,” said Than Shin, a 57-year-old farmer. Spurred by the loss of their forest habitats, the elephants, and villagers they have been terrorising, are some of the casualties of Myanmar’s alarming rate of deforestation, one of the fastest in the region.