Man-Eating Elephants in India?

In a fight for space, tigers and elephants have been attacking villagers.

ByABC News
February 16, 2011, 2:20 PM

Feb. 16, 2011— -- Humans aren't natural prey for elephants and tigers, but in the Sundarban islands of West Bengal, India, an alarming number of people have been attacked -- even eaten -- by these wild beasts.

In one part of the country, there have been reports of elephants going on a rampage, trampling homes and killing around 200 people in the past year. In one bizarre case, this typically plant-eating animal reportedly ate a human.

In another part of the country, tigers, who have developed an appetite for human flesh, reportedly killed 14 people in one village alone last year.

"Tigers generally aren't man eaters," said Dave Salmoni. "It's anomaly when an animal decides to start eating people."

Salmoni is a zoologist and an animal trainer who specializes in predators. The host of several Animal Planet shows, Salmoni will also appear on the upcoming Animal Planet special, "World's Deadliest Towns," on Feb. 21.

A tiger that can weigh up to 650 pounds and grow up to 11 feet long is clearly at the top of the food chain, and Salmoni explained that these fierce animals have overtaken the land in the Sundarban islands.

"It's the only place in the world I've ever been in the bush...I feel like I'm being hunted," he said.

The World Wildlife Fund estimated that only about 3,200 tigers are left in the world. At the same time, the number of tiger attacks in this part of India is up 30 percent over the past decade, according to Salmoni.

Some experts believe environmental issues and a rapidly growing human population in the region are reducing their habitat and their natural food supply, and forcing them into villages.

The United Nations' Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change announced in 2007 that rising sea levels could submerge 17 percent of Bangladesh by 2050, which would completely flood the mangrove forests that are the natural habitat for the Bengal species.

Thousands more humans are also going into the Sundarban forests to hunt and clear more land for farming, which further encroaches on the tigers' and elephants' territories, according to the International Union for the Conservation of Nature.

World's Deadliest Towns airs Monday, Feb. 21 at 8 p.m. ET on Animal Planet