A group of 15 elephants in mourning for a herd member struck and killed by a train have reportedly taken out their anguish on nearby villages, damaging at least 10 homes and partially destroying a schoolhouse.
For the last several days, the elephants have remained near the location of the fatal train accident in an ongoing vigil near the village of Matari in eastern India, and the herd has halted several other trains passing through the area.
Villagers have been keeping all-night vigils themselves, in an effort to thwart the attacks and hold the elephants back with firecrackers, but so far villagers haven't been able to drive the herd away.
Wildlife activist D. S. Srivastava explained that elephants are intelligent, emotional and have been known to resort to revenge attacks against those they feel responsible for the death of their friend and family member -- in this case humans.
"Elephants often try to return to the site of such accidents as they believe that their mate has only been injured and could be rescued by them," Srivastava said. "Even when an elephant dies a natural death, their friends cover the body with bushes and small tree branches."
Since 2010, at least 50 elephants have been killed on train tracks in India, mostly on tracks running through sparsely inhabited forest between isolated villages.
Railway spokesperson Amrendra Das has said that "Train drivers have also been asked to be more careful."