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Train mows down jumbos

- Hunt on for third possibly injured elephant
An excavator being used to remove the carcass of a train-hit elephant at Mariani on Thursday. Picture by UB Photos

Jorhat, Feb. 27: Two elephants were killed in a train hit near Mariani town near Gibbon wildlife sanctuary in the district this morning.

Forest department sources said an adult female, aged around 20 years, and an a sub-adult male, aged around six to seven years, were killed on the spot when they were hit by the Guwahati-Ledo Inter-city Express.

The incident occurred around 5.10am between Mariani and Nakachari railway stations, near Bhelaguri tea estate, nearly 3km from the wildlife sanctuary.

Mariani range officer D. Medhi told this correspondent that the two elephants, believed to be part of the herd at the sanctuary, were crossing the railway tracks while returning to the forest after moving out to the adjoining villages and tea gardens last night.

Medhi, quoting passengers of the train and local residents, said the train dragged the animals for nearly 400 metres as it took some time to halt it.

Halting a train abruptly may lead to derailment.

The train was delayed at the site of the incident for an hour-and-a-half as the carcasses had to be cleared from the tracks.

The range officer said on the basis of the information provided by some passengers, the forest department staff was searching for another elephant, which was suspected to be injured but had managed to leave the spot.

“Our men are asking people of the adjoining areas to inform us if an injured elephant was spotted and looking inside the sanctuary to find out if the elephant had managed to move inside the forest,” Medhi said.

Medhi added that according to the train driver’s statement, he was moving at a low speed — nearly 50km per hour — as the train had just passed through the sanctuary.

The speed of the train is “considerably reduced” from its normal speed to avoid hitting animals.

He said elephants cross the railway lines to move from one area of the sanctuary to another.

The driver said the animals appeared suddenly before the locomotive and he blew the horn but the animals did not move.

In the past few years, the forest department has been writing to the NF Railway to reduce the speed of the trains while passing through the stretch inside the forest.

Divisional forest officer (Jorhat) N.K. Malakar said a veterinary team conducted the post-mortem of the animals.

The animals were buried near the site of the accident.

He said the forest staff would patrol the incident site after dusk as the herd may visit the spot and wreak havoc in the nearby areas.

UNSAFE SANCTUARY

• Gibbon wildlife sanctuary area: 20.98 square km
• Population of elephants: 40, up from 20
• Elephants killed in train-hits inside and around Gibbon since 2010: 6

Preventive measures:

• Forest department plans digging trenches along the sanctuary borders to reduce man-elephant conflict

• Team of 6 to 7 forest guards engaged in anti-depredation duty


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