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Elephant calf run over by train

Siliguri, Dec. 3: An elephant calf that was crossing a railway track this morning was run over by a train in the Mahananda Widlife Sanctuary core area.

Foresters of the wildlife division-I said a herd of 25 was crossing the tracks when the passenger train, which was believed to be travelling at high speed, hit the calf.

“Around 6.30am, when a herd of around 25 elephants was crossing the tracks in the Lower Ghoramara area, a train went over the elephant calf,” Basabraj, the divisional forest officer, said.

Basabraj said the train might have been travelling at a high speed because the calf was flung 20ft away from the tracks.

The place where the calf died falls in an elephant corridor where train drivers are instructed to reduce the speed to avoid collisions with animals.

Assistant divisional forest officer Rathin Roy and the range officer of the Sukna wildlife squad, Kanchan Banerjee, reached the spot soon but the calf had died by then.

“It was a two-year-old male and was thrown about 20ft from the tracks. It had suffered multiple injuries and could not survive after the mishap,” Basabraj said.

A forester said the post-mortem of the animal would be done tomorrow morning.

According to foresters and wildlife NGOs, this was the 33rd incident of elephant death on tracks in the last 10 years.

In September 2010, seven elephants had died near Alipurduar, after being hit by a speeding goods train.

Last year in October, an elephant calf was run over by a train inside the Mahananda forest.

“At present, a couple of herds are wandering inside the sanctuary and often cross the tracks in search of food. After today’s accident, the rest of the herd waited at the spot for more than two hours but left eventually. We apprehend that the herd might return to the tracks and we are keeping a close watch,” an official of the forest division said.

Animesh Bose, the programme coordinator of Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, one of the oldest wildlife NGO of the region, said the forest department should immediately take up the issue of animal deaths on train tracks with the railway and implement measures to stop such incidents.