A speeding train killed five wild elephants, including a pregnant female, near Assam’s Balipara early on Sunday, the Hindustan Times reported. A stillborn calf was later removed from the pregnant elephant.
The herd was hit around 1.15 am near the Bamgaon tea estate, 210 km from Guwahati, when it was crossing the tracks looking for food, the report said. “Our staff was focusing on another herd of 100 elephants in a different area,” Davinder Suman, Divisional Forest Officer, Sonitpur East, told the newspaper. Suman said there was no information about the movement of herds in the accident area.
Assam Forest and Environment Minister Pramila Rani Brahma said encroachment into wildlife sanctuaries and reserved forests was the cause of the accident, The Indian Express reported.
“I would not blame the railways because the spot where the incident took place is not part of a defined elephant corridor,” Brahma said, adding that the encroachment was forcing elephants to come out in search of food.
As the area was not marked as an elephant corridor, there were no speed restrictions for trains, Northeast Frontier Railway Public Relations Officer Nripendra Bhattacharyya told The Indian Express.
This is the second such accident in the state in three weeks. Earlier, two elephants were killed by the Awadh Assam Express at Thakurkuchi, 19 km from the state capital. Assam has the highest number of wild elephants in India — 5,620 according to the 2011 census.