A couple was trampled to death by an elephant in the Bibiwala forest near Rishikesh on Sunday, causing panic among villagers.

Nanhe and his wife Choti, residents of Ganganagar, had gone to fetch fuel wood in the forest in the morning. As they failed to return by evening, their family members and neighbours informed the forest officials.

A search operation was launched and the mutilated bodies of the couple were recovered. “Efforts are being made to trace the killer pachyderm,” Forest Range Officer Gangasagar Nautiyal said adding that the villagers seldom followed warnings that they should not enter the reserve forests.

“The urge to get fuel wood or fodder is far too much to resist,” said Sewaram, a villager. He wanted the government to devise ways for peaceful co-existence of poor villagers and elephants.

Over a dozen persons from villages on the forest periphery in Rishikesh and Haridwar have been killed by elephants while searching for fuel wood and fodder in the past one year. At least four elephants that raided agriculture fields have been electrocuted by villagers in recent years.