A distressed elephant turned back to save a 10-month-old baby after smashing up a family home, a couple in India have claimed.
Lalita and Dipak Mahato, who live in a village in West Bengal’s Purilia district, told the Times of India (ToI) that they were having dinner at around 8pm on Monday night when they heard a “cracking sound”, then a huge crash.
"We ran over and were shocked to see the wall in pieces and a tusker [male elephant] standing over our baby,” dad Dipak told ToI.
“She was crying and there were huge chunks of the wall lying all around and on the cot.
“The tusker started moving away but when our child started crying again, it returned and used its trunk to remove the debris."
The daily newspaper reports the male elephant removed every last bit of stone, brick and mortar from the tiny girl’s body before returning to the forest.
"We worship [elephant god] Lord Ganesh in our village,” the baby’s mum Lalita told ToI.
“Still, I can't believe that the tusker saved my daughter after breaking down the door and smashing a wall.
“We watched amazed as it gently removed the debris that had fallen on her. It's a miracle."
The youngster was taken to hospital where she was treated for external injuries and is expected to make a full recovery.
According to forest officers, the same elephant has killed at least three people in the last year. It has reportedly damaged at least 17 houses in three adjoining villages.
Forest officer Om Prokash said elephants come to the villages in search of food and do not intend to harm humans unless they are attacked.
According to ToI a similar incident was reported in Jalpaiguri's Madarihat village about six months ago when a herd of elephants carefully removed a little girl before smashing several houses.