Overnight passenger train sinks and kills two wild elephants in India

Two wild elephants were killed after being run over by an overnight passenger train in Morigaon district, Assam, India on Tuesday November 30.

The wild elephants, both adults, were said to have walked on the railway tracks when they collided from the side with the engine of the Rajdhani Express bound for Dibrugarh, which was heading towards the eastern town of Dibrugarh near Jagiroad in the Assam, around 10 a.m. pm on Tuesday, November 30, Daily News reported.

“According to the locomotive driver’s preliminary report, the jumbos collided sideways with the engine. The driver had reported the death of one elephant and injuries to another. Later it was learned that both were dead said a Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) spokesperson.

The elephants are believed to have ventured into the area from a nearby forest. They were buried at the site on Wednesday, December 1, following an autopsy.

Assam ranger Dilip Kumar Das said it is common for wild elephants to roam human habitations at this time of year as the paddy fields in the area are ripe for harvesting.

In a similar but unrelated incident, three elephants were also killed by a Chennai-bound train on Line A between Walayar and Ettimadai in India on the night of November 26.

Following this, a joint meeting between officials from the Tamil Nadu Forestry Department and the Palghat Division of the Southern Railway was held on Tuesday, November 30 to come up with measures to prevent elephants from being hit by trains on the railway lines connecting Tamil Nadu and Kerala via Walayar.

The meeting explored the possibilities of reducing train speeds to less than 35 kilometers per hour, increasing the number of field trackers, using night vision binoculars and launching sensor-equipped drones thermal, reported the Hindu.

The meeting also suggested having a number of slow traffic lights with different colors before paths where elephants are most likely to cross paths. The organization also suggested installing a speed detector around these areas.

Meanwhile, a Comptroller and Auditor General (CAG) audit analysis report said at least 61 elephants died between 2016 and 2019 across the country due to accidents on railway tracks, reported the Hindustan Times.

The report highlighted that the Forestry Department and Indian Railways had not prioritized the construction of underpass/overpass infrastructure on the railway tracks to facilitate the movement of elephants. The report also mentions that several Elephant Corridor traffic signs that were placed to warn drivers were incorrectly positioned, defeating their very purpose.

The report also pointed out that even though a speed limit of 50 kilometers per hour was imposed in the identified elephant crossings, the zonal railways did not strictly follow the instructions and caused many accidents and animal deaths.

Villagers look at the two elephants who died after colliding sideways with a train in Morigaon, Assam on December 1, 2021 BIJU BORO/AFP via Getty Images

Jose P. Rogers