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7 elephants killed by train in Jalpaiguri

A day after seven elephants were mowed down by a goods train on train tracks in the Jalpaiguri forest division in Bengal, a herd of elephants visited the accident site and went on rampage in the nearby tea gardens at Banarhat, smashing the hutments that came in its way.

 

Giving eyewitness accounts, local Forest Department staffers from the Maraghata forest range told over phone, "Around the same time when the accident occurred 24 hours earlier, about 11 pm, a noisy group of 30-odd elephants appeared on the tracks."

 

Elephants are normally calm and composed animals. But, in sharp contrast, the herd that descended on the accident spot was rowdy and trumpeting loudly. The pachyderms blocked the railway track and wandered in the adjacent area for more than an hour. "It was as though they were searching for their dead members, especially the calf that had also died in the accident," the staff noted.
 
 
 
 

After about an hour, the elephants went on the rampage and trampled the nearby tea garden. The five huts of workers there came under attack, and collapsed like a pack of cards. However, there are no reports of casualties. The situation could be brought under control only after the Binnaguri elephant squad took charge and diverted the herd to the nearby Reti forest.

 

The Forest Department staff recalled that a similar incident had occurred when a pachyderm was hit on May 31 by a train on the same track about 10 km away. A similar herd of restless pachyderms had appeared on the track at the same time and continued to block the area till the break of dawn, they recalled.

 

If the elephants were outrtaged with the killing, the locals were also grieving the loss. It was a black day on Friday for those residing near the Gorumaara wildlife sanctuary and other adjoining areas. Sporting black badges, members of an ecological development committee, local tourists and various tourism-related organisations came together to offer their condolences to the dead animals at the Nature Interpretation Centre. Senior Forest officials were also present on the occasion.

 

Candles were lit before seven wooden miniature elephants. They carried banners reading, "The wild is at stake ... Let sympathy be roused in the mind of the killer at their death procession." The members squarely blamed the Railways for the accident, demanding an alternative route from Siliguri to Alipurdwar via Moynaguri, instead of Malbazar. The speed of trains passing through the 168-km stretch through the forest should be kept to 40 kmph, especially during the night hours, and the driver must be alert, they demanded.

 

Source: Pioneer / Sep. 26, 2010

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