Tusker dies after being hit by train in Rajaji Tiger Reserve (India)


Seema Sharma, Times of India

Date Published

In another incident of an elephant being killed on railway tracks within the span of a few weeks, a 20-year-old tusker died after being hit by a train on the railway tracks near Raiwala in Motichur range of the Rajaji Tiger Reserve on Saturday.

The incident happened around six in the morning. A similar tusker death was reported from Ramnagar in Kumaon a couple of weeks ago. After witnessing 20 elephant deaths on railway tracks passing through Rajaji from 1987-2001, authorities had woken up and imposed stringent measures which resulted in zero mortality from 2002-2012. But in 2013, a female elephant was found hit on train tracks.

According to local sources, one of the two elephants had passed the track, while the second elephant while crossing the track was hit by the train on the its hind legs and spinal cord. The tuskar could not get up and battled with the internal injuries for some time and then died.

Director Rajaji Tiger Reserve, Sanatan said, “The Kathgodam Express hit the elephant and, injured it badly in the spinal cord. We tried to salvage the elephant and tranquilised it to be taken to hospital but it did not get up and died. We would lodge a case against railway authorities. If they are negligent about the speed now, what would happen after electrification of trains.”

Senior official of World Wildlife Fund, AK Singh said, “The driver of the train did not bother to inform his senior officials about the incident which exposes the insensitivity of the railway. Had the train been following the specified speed limit, it could have come to a halt. The loss of a tuskar is a huge loss as there is no tuskar left in the entire South India.”

He said, the forest authorities should also see if the railway has taken all the safety measures, before going for electrification, which otherwise has amplified the mortality of wild animals across the country, wherever launched inside the reserve forest.

Additional divisional railway manager Hitender Malhotra said that he was unaware about the incident and, is out of town. Once he comes back day after tomorrow, he would look into it. However he said, the train can not come to a sudden halt even if applied break for a km, so there was no way the tragedy could be averted.

Singh of WWF however suggested that clearance of vegetation for better visibility, removal of garbage near railway track which attracts the animal , creation of underpass for movement of animals below tracks and regular patrolling by forest staff , train speed under control and coordination between forest and railway staff are basic safety measures to minimize such accidents in future.