Wildlife & Biodiversity

Odisha loses 24th elephant in 8 years on railway tracks

While forest department wants speed checks, railways seek better coordination

 
By Ashis Senapati
Last Updated: Friday 23 November 2018
Elephant deaths
The state’s forest department has identified some sections of railway tracks as elephant corridors, where speed of trains can be restricted. Credit: Getty Images The state’s forest department has identified some sections of railway tracks as elephant corridors, where speed of trains can be restricted. Credit: Getty Images

Railway tracks continued to be death traps for elephants in Odisha. On Wednesday night, a female elephant died after being hit by a train near Ramachandrapur village in Keonjhar district. This was the 24 such death in the state in eight years.

A herd of nine elephants were crossing the railway tracks when a goods train hit the 7-8-year-old animal, said Sandeep Tripathy, the state’s chief wildlife warden and principal chief conservator of forests.

After a survey a few years ago the state’s forest department identified sections of railway tracks in Jajpur, Keonjhar, Ganjam, Gajapati, Sundargarh, Balesore, Bhadrak, Puri, Jharasaguda and Cuttack as elephant corridors, Tripathy said. “We recommended some steps, including restriction of the speed of trains and increased alertness,” he added.

East Coast Railway official Nirakar Das, however, said, “it would be unjustified to blame the railways for the deaths. Forest department personnel must inform station masters to slow down or halt trains when elephants cross tracks.” Train engines stop only after take 750-1,000 meters after the brakes are applied, he added.

Tripathi claimed his department keeps nightly watches at “vulnerable” spots that elephants use to move forest to non-forest areas, especially between March and November in search of fodder and water.

Environmentalist and Wildlife Society of Odisha (WSO) Secretary Biswajit Mohanty agreed that the speed of trains must be restricted within elephant corridors. He sought training for railway engine drivers and said local eco-development committees should coordinate migrations to avoid man-animal conflicts.

On April 15, four elephants, including two female and a calf, were killed after being hit by a goods train near Bagdihi railway station in Jharsuguda district.  Another female elephant, aged about five, was killed similarly near Pattasahi station (Sundargarh district) on April 14 last year. 

On November 26, 2013, a female elephant was killed after being hit by the Gitanjali Express    in the same district. On March 21 that year, two more succumbed similarly in Keonjhar. Six jumbos were mowed down by a passenger train at Rambha (Ganjam district) on December 31, 2012 while two more died near Champua, Keonjhar on August 15 that year.

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