Irrespective of where a child lives one question most kids can answer is “which is the largest land animal?” and you will get the answer “Elephant”.
India is home to around 25,000 elephants who are in an eternal struggle for existence; courtesy the habitat encroachment from the growing population. Early this month India’s ministry for Environment and Forestry declared the Elephant as a “National Heritage Animal“!
Fast forward to the 23rd of September – Imagine a train hitting and killing 7 elephants and the driver claiming he was going slow and did not see the elephants! Believable right?
Elephants are gentle giants, left to themselves they are like most other animals who really don’t want anything to do with us humans. In the largest fatality of its kind 7 elephants were mowed down by a goods train in the District of Jaipalguri in West Bengal. Since 1987 Trains have killed 118 elephants and this region of West Bengal had another elephant death 3 months back.
The Indian railways has this track smack in the middle of an elephant corridor and for some distance where the region is protected the trains are supposed to maintain a slow speed between 2o-40 kilometers per hour. Wild life officials who have seen the carnage put the speed anywhere above 90 kilometers an hour, and they find it preposterous that the driver could not see the elephants on a moonlit night in an open area without trees. The dead elephants were three adult females, two young elephants, an adult tusker and a calf.
The reality is the sheer callous attitude of people involved who seem to think “the elephants should have known better” they crossed where “it was not a protected zone”. As if Elephants should be reading the railways memo’s and cautionary boards before walking a path their ancestors have walked for centuries…
I can’t imagine what goes on in people’s minds to excuse such inhumane behavior. To be blatantly ignorant about us encroaching on their natural habitats and creating survival issues for them and then justifying it by saying the Elephants were in the wrong place, it’s a shame.
What can be done?
IMMEDIATE SOLUTION – All Wild life activists and experts in India say the solution right now is to Stop Goods trains after dark through that route and to keep the speeds really low.
Long term Possible Solution
9 years back the Wild Life trust of India had formed a tie-up with forest officials and the railways in Rajaji national Park in the Indian State of Madhya Pradesh where trains had killed 11 elephants in 14 years. They formed a wireless monitoring network comprising of forest guards who monitored the railway tracks, who would be in touch with the railways motormen who were sensitized towards the elephants and their right to stay alive. The project is a resounding success and may be, something along the same lines might work for the Doaar Elephants too… After the project went live there has not been a single elephant death by train in the Rajaji National Park. The Doaar protected area is much larger and has tea estates in the midst, it will definitely be a much larger undertaking. According to sources, WWF has decided to file a case in Supreme Court to stop train movement on the NJP-Alipurduar Junction route.
Hope this kind of incident never happens again (in someways I feel it is wishful thinking until some concrete step is taken).
It is this kind of accidents which will be happening if and when the highway through the Serengeti becomes a reality. I shudder at the thought of what might be… Sign the petition to stop the Serengeti Highway if you have not already done it, we need to start a petition for the elephants of Doaar soon.
Like Everything else in life what we do is what counts more than what we say…