WILDLIFE TRAGEDY: Train runs over jumbo on stroll – Tracks turn elephant corridors into killing fields

WILDLIFE TRAGEDY: Train runs over jumbo on stroll – Tracks turn elephant corridors into killing fields – really now … no speed limit for trains in sensitive areas ?!!

The female elephant run over by the train near Red Bank Tea Estate in Jalpaiguri district. (Photo by Anirban Choudhury)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Alipurduar, June 1: An elephant moving from one forest to another was mowed down by a speeding train in the Siliguri-Alipurduar Junction section last night.

With the death, the number of elephants killed on tracks in this section since May 2008 has reached five.

The incident has once again brought to focus the need to put in a proper mechanism to prevent the recurrence of elephant deaths on tracks in north Bengal.

The 15-year-old female elephant was killed by Alipurduar Junction-bound Intercity Express near Red Bank Tea Estate around 9.45pm. The forest department has lodged an FIR against the train driver.

“A four-five member herd was moving from Moraghat forest to Reti. While three elephants could cross the track, the last one was run over by the train that was coming from Siliguri at high speed. The driver stopped the train and found that the animal had been dragged away for around 100 metres. The body was cut into several pieces on the impact of the collision,” said a forest officer.

A team of guards who were busy tracking a herd of 17 elephants in the Reti forest came to know about the incident and sent word to senior officers. Kalyan Das, the divisional forest officer of Jalpaiguri, immediately rushed to the spot.

Manindra Biswas, the conservator of forest, wildlife (north), also reached Red Bank Tea Estate, 85km from here, in the morning.

Forest sources said the 170km-long track between Siliguri and Alipurduar Junction cuts across at least 21 elephant corridors. But a committee comprising railway and forest officials had suggested a few years ago that trains needed to decelerate only at six points to avoid collisions with the animal.

The Red Bank garden, which is used by herds to move between Moraghat and Reti forests, is not on the list of six elephant corridors.

“The train was moving at high speed though there is a sharp curve close to the spot where the animal was knocked down. The elephants cannot easily cross the track that is situated at a level higher than the ground. We have repeatedly told railway officials to reduce the speed of trains especially at night but they do not care at all,” said Biswas.

“We have identified another 14 vulnerable points, where the railways need to take precautionary measures. The forest department lodged an FIR against the driver for last night’s mishap,” he added.

A. Hussain, senior divisional commercial manager of Alipurduar railway division, said: “The Red Bank tea garden is not among the elephant corridors where trains have to move slowly. If the railways can timely inform us about the locations of herds, we can drive cautiously near those spots. But we did not receive any such information last night.”

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