WILDLIFE: Jumbo stopper for traffic

WILDLIFE: Jumbo stopper for traffic – vigilance lauded, elephants tagged & tracked yet ?!!

The elephant herd in the forest near Binnaguri on Tuesday - radio tagging necessary ?!! (Anirban Choudhury)

FROM THE TELEGRAPH CORRESPONDENT

Alipurduar, Sept. 14: A herd of 22 wild elephants today came close to a national highway and the railway tracks near Binnaguri, prompting foresters to take up vigil on the road and keep a watch on the passing trains for at least 12 hours before the animals were driven away.

The herd, which included seven calves, was spotted in a forest patch ensconced between NH31 on one side and the tracks on the other, around 6am. The wooded tract of new trees on what was once an airstrip catering to tea gardens in the pre-Independence period is part of a conventional elephant corridor that stretches from Moraghat to the Titi forest and comes under the Jalpaiguri forest division. The area is about 80km from here.

In recent years a number of wild elephants were mowed down on the railway tracks in the Dooars, prompting the forest department to ask the railways to regulate the movement of trains to avoid collision.

Ashoke Tirki, a resident of the area, said: “I was cycling on NH31 when I saw a few elephants. I immediately informed the Moraghat range office.”

Soon personnel from the Moraghat and three other ranges as well as officers from Banarhat police station reached the spot. Thousands of people had gathered there by then.

“When we noticed the herd, we asked the railways to run the trains very slowly and also posted our personnel on the highway to regulate the traffic. Loudspeakers were used to warn people not to go close to the animals or tease the herd because wild elephants accompanied by their calves often become furious whenever they feel insecure,” said Kalyan Das, the divisional forest officer of Jalpaiguri.

Das, who was on way to Siliguri to attend a meeting, returned midway when he heard about the herd. He said a large number of foresters along with Banarhat police were posted in the area till the animals were driven back to the Moraghat forest around 7pm.

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