New Delhi – India’s top hunter on Friday led a shoot-to-kill pursuit of an elephant whose murderous rampage through villages has left 15 people dead.

The government has turned to sharpshooter Nawab Shafat Ali Khan ahead of World Elephant Day on Saturday to hunt the animal who crushed four victims in the eastern state of Bihar in March before crossing into neighbouring Jharkhand and killing 11 more.

Jharkhand’s chief forest and wildlife conservator L.R.Singh said the decision to kill the animal was made after a team failed to tranquilise and capture the elephant during a week-long mission.

Singh blamed the rocky terrain and thick vegetation in Sahibganj district. “The visibility is only 15 feet and it’s become next to impossible to tranquilise the animal,” Singh told AFP.

The marauding elephant, believed to have lost its way after becoming separated from its herd, has strayed into villages in hillier parts of Sahibganj.

© AFP Biju BORO Violent encounters between elephants and humans were an "increasing trend", said Singh, as vast swathes of forest are cleared for human settlements and industry

© AFP Biju BORO – Violent encounters between elephants and humans were an “increasing trend”, said Singh, as vast swathes of forest are cleared for human settlements and industry