The incident of Delhi-bound Rajdhani express hitting a herd of elephants in Jorhat district of Assam on Sunday night has caused quite a stir among the conservationists and local people. Taking cognizance of the threat posed by train collision and how it undermines the conservation efforts to safeguard elephants and other wildlife as well, Aaranyak (www.aaranyak.org)- a leading biodiversity conservation organisation is deeply disturbed and stand in solidarity with these gentle giants and people of Assam who are in the state of shock.
It is alarming that since January, 2022 eight elephants were killed by trains, four alone in little over a month in Assam. The areas with highest train-elephant hits occurrence are in Kampur-Hojai-Diphu-Mariani, as per a recent study. *Reports indicate that between 1990 and 2018, a total of 115 elephants died in Assam due to train hits alone. The state of Assam with an estimated wild elephant population of approximately 5719, accounts for substantial unnatural elephant mortality as a result of train hits, preceded only by elephant electrocution.
Linear infrastructure such as railway tracks often run through pristine wildlife habitats which has consequently led to habitat fragmentation posed barriers to wildlife movement and caused casualties due to collision. The threat of wildlife-train collision is magnified for a long-ranging species such as Asian elephants which need expansive areas for their survival.
Aaranyak strongly urges the Indian Railways to look into the matter and act immediately in addressing the issue and curtail down on elephant-train collision. Aaranyak demands that the Railways should look into the matter and come-up with short term mitigation measures and long-term solutions to safeguard our heritage animal.
Aaranyak believes that the conservation costs must be prioritised while planning for developmental projects such as linear infrastructure and other land-use changes. The Government Line Departments must work in tandem to achieve this holistic goal. Aaranyak is working tirelessly to safeguard elephants, protect biodiversity of the region and thereby ensure human well-being too.