A HERD of four elephants including an infant has been mown down by a speeding train in eastern India, in the worst incident of its kind since 2012.
A freight train travelling through a forest known to be an elephant corridor in the state of Odisha slammed into the elephants in the early hours of Monday morning. In the past decade, at least 22 elephants have been killed on train tracks in the state, reported the Hindustan Times.
The latest incident occurred some 20km away from the Sambalpur elephant reserve, with forest officials believing the animals had come from the park.
“Although there was no elephant movement in the area for the past three to four months, the railway authorities were duly informed to reduce train speed in that section,” said a representative of the local forest authorities, Sushant Kumar as quoted by The Hindu.
“Besides, they were also requested to follow guidelines including making continuous hooting along the stretch,” he said.
According to WWF, there are only around 20,000-25,000 Indian elephants remaining in the wild, meaning it is classified as endangered. Conflict with humans is a major threat to its population as well as the illegal wildlife trade.
In Odisha, some 589 elephants have died in the past decade, of which 205 deaths were unnatural, according to the Hindustan Times. Death on train tracks was the third greatest cause.
“We have also written to the SE Railway asking it to reduce the train speed to 30km per hour on the route, particularly on the stretch between Jharsuguda division and Bamra wildlife division, henceforth,” another local conservation official said.
“At such a high speed, there’s no chance the elephants would have survived,” Biswajit Mohanty, a local wildlife expert told the New York Times. “This is a big violation.”
“Today’s incident is nothing less than massacre of elephants by Railways,” he added.