An Asiatic lion was run over by a goods train at Khadkala village near Savarkundla town in Amreli district in the Gir (east) wildlife division late on Saturday with forest officials attributing the reason to low visibility due to rain.
According to forest officials, the incident took place at Khadkala village, around 15 km east from Savarkundla town, which is part of the revenue area of Savarkundla range of Gir (west) wildlife division, near the bank of Khari river around 9.30 pm Saturday.
“The loco pilot noticed the lion on the track at the last moment as it was raining and visibility was low. He applied brakes but before the train came to a halt, it had run over the lion,” Dushyant Vasavada, chief conservator of forest (CCF) of Junagadh wildlife circle, told The Indian Express. Gir (west) wildlife division is part of Junagadh wildlife circle.
“After being informed by railway officials, our officers rushed there but the lion died on the spot. After completing the formalities, the train resumed its journey at around 2 am Sunday,” Vasavada saidd, adding the lion was five to six years old.
This is the second such incident on the busy Surendranagar-Pipavav railway track this year. On February 16 this year, a male lion, believed to be between five and nine years old, was injured after being hit by a goods train near Uchaiya village of Rajula taluka of Amreli district in Shetrunji Wildlife division. While the Uchaiya incident had taken place in the fenced stretch of the track, the Khadkala stretch is not fenced.
The railway track connects Pipavav port, a major hub handling containerised cargo, in Amreli district on the southern coast of Suarashtra to the country’s railway network via Surendranagar. Scores of lions have settled in areas of Amreli district’s Savarkundka, Lilia and Rajula talukas as their population in Gir forest increased and the big cats started dispersing in search of new territories.
The Poonam Avalokan conducted by the Gujarat forest department had pegged the population of Asiatic lions in Gir forest and adjoining areas to 674. Lions were spotted in Junagadh, Gir Somnath, Amreli and Bhavnagar districts during the exercise. Among them, the largest number of lions, 233, were spotted in Amreli district alone.
Railway officials said that the incident took place despite speed restrictions on the stretch that reports frequent movement of lions. “A system has been in place for six-seven years where forest rangers keep tracking lion movements. Our staff posted on the line as well as drivers and guards of moving trains contact our control room if they spot any lion movement… message is flashed to all stations to keep vigil and to reduce the speed of the train. We run the train at reduced speed during night and still this unfortunate incident happened,” said Manoj Goyal, divisional railway manager (DRM) of Bhavnagar.