WILDLIFE: Jumbo calf killed on tracks

WILDLIFE: Jumbo calf killed on tracks – three in a row ?!!

Foresters inspect the carcass of the elephant calf inside the Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary on Monday - rail officials need an overhaul ?!! (A Telegraph photo)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Siliguri, July 19: A male elephant calf died when a train engine rammed into it in Mahananda Wildlife Sanctuary last night. It is the 17th wild elephant to die on the Dooars track since it was converted into broad gauge in 2004.

The elephant was crossing the tracks at Choplangkhola near here when the engine on way to Siliguri Junction hit the animal and dragged it for several metres.

“The calf was alone with no herd nearby. It suffered injuries on the chin, skull and the brain has multiple lacerations,” said Tapas Das, the divisional forest officer (wildlife I). “The incident occurred around midnight and the calf was around three-four years old.”

The track connects Siliguri Junction with Alipurduar Junction via Sevoke and Malbazar. The foresters were informed about the incident by the residents of Choplangkhola, 15km from Siliguri. The engine knocked down the animal 2.5km from Gulma station.

The guards took vets to the spot and a post-mortem was conducted on the carcass. The calf was cremated in the afternoon.

Moloy Maiti, one of the vets who conducted the autopsy, said: “There were multiple injuries on the elephant, which had turned into a mangled mass of flesh and blood. We will hand over the post-mortem report to the forest department.”

Ever since the Dooars rail track was converted into a broad gauge in 2004, there have been several incidents of animals, mostly elephants, being mowed down by speeding trains at night. Frequent animal deaths on tracks prompted the forest department and wildlife NGOs to hold a number of meetings with the railways to regulate trains’ speed and to mark areas used by elephant to cross the track.

No such measures have been proved fruitful till date and elephants continue to be run over by trains on the tracks.

“The last elephant death on tracks occurred at Rajabhatkhawa in Buxa Tiger Reserve a few weeks ago. Again, another elephant was run over by a train last night. Apart from elephants, gaurs (Indian bison) and snakes have also died on the same track in the past six years,” said Animesh Bose, the programme co-ordinator of Siliguri-based Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation and a member of the state board for wildlife.

“With repeated killings of elephants on the tracks, it has become impertinent for the railways as well as the state forest department to sit together and find out an early solution,” he added.

Bose said they had sought the help of Darjeeling district Trinamul Congress president Gautam Deb to meet railway minister Mamata Banerjee and to seek her intervention to end this kind of mishaps.

“We had talked to Deb last month and he took up the matter with Mamata Banerjee. Our organisation has been told to compile a report on the animal deaths on the tracks in the Dooars,” said Bose. “We are in the process of making the report and it is expected to be submitted to the railway minister soon.”

“Animals are knocked down by trains running at night. Unless the speed is regulated, elephants will continue to die on the tracks in the Dooars,” he added.

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