A passenger train struck a herd of elephants this week, killing 7 and injuring 10. The accident took place at dusk in the Chapramari wildlife sanctuary, near West Bengal where approximately 40 elephants were crossing.
The train operator was speeding, even though operators have been “repeatedly urged” to reduce their speed through this part of the tracks because of the number of elephants in the area.
Unfortunately this is not a random occurrence. At least 50 elephants have been killed by trains in West Bengal since 2004.
Human encroachment in elephant territories is a huge problem in India. The habitats are becoming fragmented, the elephant corridors are being stripped away.
What is an elephant corridor?
Corridors are strips of land, pathways, that allow the elephants to move freely from one area to another. Like shortcuts, they keep them connected so they are not cut off from one another or from grazing areas because of roads, logging or developments.
In India there are currently 88 elephant corridors, which are a necessity to the survival of the Asian Elephant. These corridors are difficult to maintain due to human growth and development.
The World Land Trust and the Wildlife Trust of India have been working to keep these corridors open for the elephants, even going so far as to move an entire village (see previous post: Making History for Elephants).
It is a continuing drama, as elephants strive to live and people push to grow. Human development comes with a cost. Unfortunately it is the elephants who are paying the price.
The recent joint railway project connecting Kenya, Rwanda and Uganda, will begin construction this month. It will undoubtedly reduce the cargo trucks on the roads, easing traffic in addition to expediting shipments.
Kenya is also planning railway construction which will connect Kenya to South Sudan.
But in the light of the elephant/train crisis in India, there is a sense of foreboding. In the face of human/animal conflict, the animals always lose.