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article imageTrain kills elephants trying to protect young in India

By Lynn Curwin     Sep 24, 2010 in Environment
When two elephant calves became stuck on railway tracks, adults crowded around the young to protect them. All seven of the animals were then killed by a freight train speeding through the forest.
The elephants were crossing the tracks on the Banarhat forest of West Bengal around midnight on Wednesday when the calves got stuck.
People concerned about wildlife had previously asked railroad authorities not to run trains through the forests at night or to take routes less likely to result in death for animals.
"The drivers hardly ever adhere to the restrictions," The Guardian quoted Animesh Basu, who runs the Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, as saying.
He said that many deer, bison, leopards and boats have been killed due to trains hitting them in the same forest.
"This is not the first time that such a mishap has taken place, although the scale with which it has taken place now is unprecedented, particularly in the North-East Frontier Railway," India’s environment minister, Jairam Ramesh, said in a statement. “I have written a number of letters to the Minister of Railway and have personally held a number of meetings with officials of the Railway Board. We have discussed measures to be taken in order to avoid such tragedies. I have been reassured on more than one occasion that these measures will be put in place.”
He said the tragedy is especially poignant as it took place soon after plans were made to declare the elephant India’s national heritage animal, to take steps to establish a National Elephant Conservation Authority and to implement the recommendations of the Elephant Task Force to protect designated key elephant corridors.
Minister of Railways, Mamata Banerjee, issued a statement saying that she expressed deep anguish over the death of the animals
“I understand that this unfortunate incident took place in an area other than the identified elephant corridors,” she said. “I have asked Railway Board to work out a joint strategy with the Ministry of Environment & Forests to prevent such incidents.”
The press release stated that the accident took place “when seven elephants tress-passed at km 96/4-6 between Binnaguri and Banarhat stations.”
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