A loco pilot’s presence of mind to apply emergency brakes upon spotting four Asiatic lions on the track on a rainy night saved the lives of the animals, the Bhavnagar division of Western Railway said on Monday. This was the 23rd incident when a train was halted after lions were spotted either on the track or near the track this year, it added.
Niladevi Zala, assistant commercial manager of Bhavnagar railway division, said the loco pilot of a goods train headed to Surendranagar from Pipavav port in Amreli spotted four lions on the railway track between Savarkundla and Lilia section at around 7:48 pm on September 16. “It was dark and the train was running at its permissible speed. On spotting the lions on the track, the loco pilot immediately applied the emergency brakes and brought the train to halt, thereby saving lions from getting run over. His alertness and action saved the lives of lions,” Zala stated on Monday.
The incident comes only around a month after a male Asiatic lion was run over by a goods train at Khadkala village, around 14 km east of Savarkundla in the same railway section on a rainy night on August 21. That was the second lion casualty on this railway line this year. Subsequently, the forest department captured five lions from near Pipavav port last month and relocated them to Gir (west) wildlife division as a precautionary measure.
Zala, however, said that Thursday was not the first incident when the alertness of a Railway staff saved the lives of lions that have been occupying the railway track or were in the vicinity. “Data shows that in 2020-21 and 2021-22 (till September 18), there were 52 and 23 number of incidences respectively, where prompt action taken by the railway staff prevented lions (from being) run over,” the manager said.
She also added that Cyclone Tauktae has caused extensive damage to the fencing along the track from Pipavav to Rajula, and that the railway administration has informed the forest department to attend the same at the earliest to minimise the movement of lions near the railway tracks.