Three elephants – two of which were pregnant – killed and a few suspected to be injured when the 15905 Up Kanyakumari-Dibrugarh Vivek Express knocked them down near Jugijaon railway station in Nagaon district in central Assam around Sunday midnight. The three elephants were killed when a herd of wild elephants came on the railway tracks and “dashed against the train engine” of the Dibrugarh-bound express train. While the train was delayed by about 30 minutes due to the accident, carcasses of the three elephants were discovered by a railway patrolling team at the accident site only on Monday morning, Northeast Frontier Railway CPRO Pranav Jyoti Sharma said.
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A forest official said that while one of the elephants killed was about four years old, the other two were adult females, both of which were pregnant. The two adult females were found to be pregnant when post-mortem examination was carried out, the official said.
This was the second time elephants have been killed by speeding trains in Assam in the current year. Earlier, two elephants were killed when the Dibrugarh-bound Rajdhani Express hit them near Khatkhati railway station in Karbi Anglong district.
“Neither the train was stalled nor there was any injury to any passenger. The driver of the train reported the incident at Jugijan railway station at around midnight. The train was delayed by half an hour but reached Dibrugarh safely Mondaymorning,” the CPRO said.
He said that the incident happened when the elephant herd was crossing the railway track from Kundulimari village to Santipur village at a location about 137 km east of Guwahati railway station. The railways claimed that the spot where the incident took place was not a notified elephant corridor.
“The spot where the incident occurred is not a notified elephant corridor, and as such there was no speed restriction on the section. This is the first time such an accident of train knocking down elephants happened at the location,” CPRO Sharma said. He also said that following the incident, all train drivers were alerted to avoid recurrence of such accidents for the safety of passengers and elephants.
Meanwhile, Aaranyak, a leading wildlife conservation and research NGO has appealed to the railway ministry to give a serious look into the incident of elephant deaths due to trains and direct the railways to take steps to reduce speed in the key elephant passages in Assam.
“The railway ministry should take urgent steps and direct railways to reduce speed and take utmost care while passing through known elephant passages,” Aaranyak CEO Bibhab Kumar Talukdar, who is Chair of the IUCN SSC Asian Rhino Specialist Group, and Asian Rhino Coordinator for the International Rhino Foundation, said. Aaranyak had a few years back helped railways train loco-pilots and other staff on issues related to wild elephants crossing railway tracks.