Steps taken to curb wild animal deaths due to train hits

National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) has asked all the chief wildlife wardens (CWLWs) of tiger range states to take urgent measures for preventing wild animal mortality due to train hits.

The move follows a 10-month-old tiger cub getting killed and another getting seriously injured when a speeding train hit them on April 15 night near Kelzar on Gondia-Chanda Fort section. The injured one, which suffered leg fractures, is still being treated in city.

“Railway tracks pass through several tiger reserves and areas rich in wildlife. Time and again, there are reports of wildlife mortality including tigers, elephants, deer, wild boars, rhinos and other species due to train hits. This has been reviewed at the level of minister of state for environment and forests and urgent measures are reiterated,” says an advisory issued by NTCA member-secretary Rajesh Gopal on August 22.

NTCA has suggested several measures. They include identification of sensitive stretches along the railway tracks based on ongoing Phase-IV monitoring of wild animals, deploying personnel for sharing information about presence of wild animals between forest department and the railways on a day-to-day basis, a monthly joint review by senior officials at division level.

In high train density areas, forest personnel (not below the rank of forester) may be deployed in railway control room to ensure due coordination relating to wild animal movement. In habitats with gregarious wild animals (elephant, gaur, deer etc), herd monitoring should be done on a day-to-day basis in areas close to railway track for updating the railway control room.

A suggestion has also been made to restrict the speeds of trains in tracks passing through wildlife habitat. However, this is not within power of wildlife officials. NTCA also directed installing 24X7 e-surveillance in sensitive portions using intelligent thermal cameras for generating early warning alerts near railway tracks. However, a proposal in this regard for Tadoba is pending with NTCA.

The wildlife chiefs have been told to clear vegetation on the sides of railway tracks along with appropriate luminescent signages for warning the drivers. In coordination with the railway authorities, it should be ensured the track is kept free from food waste from pantry and water accumulation.

SWH Naqvi, principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife), Maharashtra, said the department had already started working on the suggestions. “We have issued the advisory to the field officers. I will also write to railway authorities. However, these recommendations are not binding on railways and there needs to be a law,” Naqvi said.

Pradeep Kumar, senior divisional commercial manager (SrDCM), South-East Central Railway (SECR), says, “No speed restrictions have been enforced by us on Chanda Fort section. We also have not received any advisory from NTCA.”

“Issuing such suggestions to forest department won’t yield anything,” said Bandu Dhotre, honorary wildlife warden of Chandrapur.

NTCA recommendations

Illuminate sensitive tracks through solar lights.

Organize tiger/wildlife sensitization workshops for railway personnel.

Provide information brochures in vernacular in tiger sensitive zones.

Ongoing short-term measures to be complemented by long-term strategy on a site specific basis through overpasses and underpasses, barricading in patches, girder bridges.

Identify sensitive habitats along the tracks.

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