TODAY

TODAY   |  May 27, 2013

Rogue elephants, humans, in deadly battle

In Northeast India, rogue elephants are killing 100 people a year, as elephants who have lost their homes from deforestation raid villages for grain. NBC’s Ian Williams reports.

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This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> in india between elfanpant ephants and people. nbc's ian williams .

>> reporter: it was like a medieval battle. fought under the light of a full moon . domestic elephants driven by fearless handlers confront a herd of hungry, wild elephants intent on raiding a local grain store. there are perhaps 15 or 20 of them. ahead on the road. then the foot soldiers move in. villagers and local forestry officials scaring away the wild elephants with a bombardment of sound and light in what's become a nightly ritual in this corner of northeast india . and this is the third time this house has been damaged. it doesn't always end so peacefully. local villagers bear the scars from elephant raids which have killed scores of people including this man, crushed by a retreating herd. him and his wife and baby died in what he says was an unprovoked elephant attack. come down here. but the violence isn't all one-sided. elephants are being poisoned and electrocu electrocuted. 65% of the forest?

>> yeah, in this area.

>> reporter: a conservationist with the wwf is trying to keep the peace. so more and more elephants are being forced down here?

>> yeah.

>> reporter: he says wild elephants are raiding the villages out of desperation because of their forest habitat and migration roots are being destroyed. he travels the area, speaking in villages and schools, bringing a simple message of peaceful co-existence.

>> don't disturb the elephants. leave them alone.

>> reporter: but as a herd passes through one of the area's plantations, that's not a message that's always heeded. these two males have now become separated from the herd, and that makes them particularly dangerous. another group is protecting a young calf. they're teased and goaded by teenagers with sling slot shots and stones, leaving bystanders angry and exasperated.

>> they will again complain.

>> reporter: as the day draws to an end, quick reaction teams go on alert along the edge of the ever-receding forest. they're a squad of trained elephants standing by, another night on the front line of this bitter conflict. ian williams , nbc news, india.