There are about 25,000 elephants in the country with 3,500 in captivity. Our country is home to 60% of the elephants in Asia. To preserve our rich biodiversity it is our duty to work for its preservation. The recent incident in Assam, near forest of Jalpaiguri, where 7 elephants were mowed down mercilessly by a goods train has left all the animal lovers shaken. The railway shrugged off their responsibility saying that it was a ‘denotified’ area and is not known for animal movement.
Some of you may be shocked to know that we have lost 150 elephants due to train hits since the year 1987. But it will be unjustified if the whole blame is put on the Railways owing to the fact that a train’s engine can come to halt only after a distance of around 750-1000 meters even when brakes are applied with full force! And moreover the Forest department could not fulfill its duty of protecting and preserving the wild life. The lack of coordination between the Railways and the Forest Department cost those innocent animals their lives..
A report of Elephant Task Force under banner of the Ministry of Environment and Forests presents a detailed study of the condition of Elephants in India. The following table has been adopted from the report-
Factors responsible for elephant deaths due to train hits
Considering the fact that trains are a major cause of unnatural deaths of Elephants, we need to investigate into the factors responsible. They are enumerated as follows-
- Speeding trains.
- Sharp turnings in the Railway Lines.
- Disposal of edible waste near the tracks by caterers and passengers.
- Higher frequency of trains.
- Lack of awareness among drivers.
- Lack of coordination between Railways and the Forest Department.
Suggestions to avoid such accidents
Some substantial measures have to be taken to save the depleting elephant population in India. Some of them could be the following-
- A detailed survey of the accident prone areas can be taken up to ascertain the possible factors causing elephant deaths.
- For effective solution coordination between Forest department, Railways and other local conservation organizations is called for.
- Appointment of Elephant Trackers should be done who could trace the elephant activity near the Railway. For this preference could be given local youth or tribes residing in the nearby areas.
- Installation of technologically advanced censors which could alert the railways to the presence of heavy bodied animals near the track.
- Speed of the trains should be reduced in the identified areas. This has been done in Rajaji National Park and Karbi Anglong of Assam.
- The caterers in the train must be strictly forbid to throw waste food and other garbage in the forest so as to not attract animals near the track.
Some efforts are being made by the Government of India. The Minister of environment declared last month that Elephant shall be declared the National Heritage Animal since they have been part of our heritage since ages. He assured that efforts would be made to bring elephant preservation in ranks of Tigers. Also, the formation of National Elephant Conservation Authority was announced. The bill to this effect will be tabled in the winter session of the parliament. Lets hope for the best for our National Heritage animal otherwise elephants population shall actually tumble down to the ranks of Tigers!
Picture credit: The Hindu.