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Wild elephants kill 10 people in Bangladesh refugee camp: UNHCR

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Frightened wild elephants attempting to pass through a camp housing refugees from Myanmar in Bangladesh's Cox Bazaar have killed 10 people, UN refugee agency UNHCR said Tuesday.

UNHCR senior environmental coordinator, Andrea Dekrout, briefed journalists in Geneva by telephone about the latest tragedy to afflict some of the refugees at the world's biggest refugee settlement.

"When wild elephants attempt to pass through the camp they inevitably come into contact with people, which is where the danger arises," said Dekrout.

"Tragically ten refugees have been killed by frightened elephants inside the settlements. Other people have been injured and lost the little property they had," she said.

The area now occupied by the Kutupalong refugee settlement has long been an important habitat for Asian Elephants.

There are about 40 elephants in the area and they move between Bangladesh and Myanmar in search of food.

More than 670,000 Rohigya refugees have fled from Myanmar to Bangladesh since Aug. 25, said UNHCR. Due to the crisis in Rakhine State, the Kutupalong refugee settlement in Cox's Bazaar now hosts more than 560,000 refugees.

To protect refugees from more dangerous encounters, UNHCR has teamed up with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

"UNHCR is partnering with IUCN to bring about safe coexistence with wildlife in the refugee settlements," said Dekrout.

"One great project that is already in action is the creation of Elephant Response Teams (ERTs). These are groups of trained people who know how to respond appropriately to an approaching elephant and who can deter it from entering the camp and keep everyone safe," she said.

There are now 17 ERTs on the watch in the camp and one team had their first success only two days after being formed.

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