Lesson in jumbo ways for Rohingya

A trumpet fills the air and volunteer actors - carrying a life-size puppet of an elephant made of bamboo and old clothing - charge and scatter a group of refugees.

The commotion draws squeals of delight from children who have gathered at a field in Kutupalong refugee camp in Cox's Bazar, Bangladesh, on Saturday.

More than just entertainment, this "training day" is to raise awareness about these wild elephants whose habitat has been consumed by the refugee camp, reported Agence France-Presse.

With hundreds of thousands of refugees being driven into Bangladesh by violence in Myanmar, the camp now encroaches deeper into the forest. Refugees are stripping trees for firewood and building settlements on the bare hillocks.

As a result, man and beast are increasingly coming into conflict. Last year, a dozen Rohingya were killed by these elephants.

These training days, conducted by volunteers from the United Nations' refugee agency UNHCR, are to help the Rohingya better understand these elephants. The refugees are taught how to safely corral an elephant that strays into a settled area, and use whistles and human chains to drive it away.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 09, 2018, with the headline 'Lesson in jumbo ways for Rohingya'. Print Edition | Subscribe