Authorities reported that a group of elephants, including two young ones, were killed after a passenger train collided with them as they crossed the tracks in a forested area of Bengal.
According to Hiten Burman, the forestry minister in West Bengal, a passenger train collided with a group of 40 elephants crossing the tracks in the Chapramari Forest, resulting in the deaths of seven elephants, including two cubs, and serious injuries to 10 others. The incident occurred at dusk, and the train was traveling at 80 kilometers (50 miles) an hour. Burman criticized railway authorities for ignoring requests to reduce train speeds in the elephant corridor in Jalpaiguri district, which is about 670 kilometers (415 miles) from Kolkata, the state capital. He added that the accident was the worst of its kind in recent memory. After the accident, forest guards and railroad workers drove away the scattered herd, which had returned to the tracks and stood there for a while. The death toll may rise, according to Burman.
Dozens of elephants have died in recent years after being struck while crossing railroad tracks that run through India’s national parks and forests. In December, a train killed five elephants in neighboring Orissa state. “It is an irony that elephants are being killed by speeding trains in north Bengal on regular intervals, even though it has been declared as the heritage animal in India and an elephant cub is the mascot of Indian Railways,” said Animesh Basu, a wildlife activist and coordinator of the Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation.
Basu, who blamed unrestricted movement of trains for the accident, said at least 50 elephants have been killed by trains since 2004 in West Bengal state. India’s wild elephant population was recently estimated at about 26,000.