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Published by Anil Kumar Singh, Ashok Kumar, Aniruddha Mookerjee, Vivek Menon, 01 Sep 2001
A scientific approach to understanding and mitigating elephant mortality due to train accidents in Rajaji National Park
When two behemoths meet head to head, one or both might suffer. The Indian Railways and elephants have had a love-hate relationship. The elephant is the mascot of northern railways. Yet the railways continue to fragment elephant habitat and kill them by running over them on tracks. The Rajaji National Park has 14 kilometres of railway track running right through it bisecting the park into two parts. Trains have started running at faster speeds along these tracks and during times of the night when they did not run in the past. Elephants that need to cross the track to use the habitat, for water or food, on the other side of the park became fair game for the trains and an average of one elephant got killed every year on the tracks.

Wildlife Trust of India’s Rapid Action Project initiated one of its most successful sets of rapid actions when a series of short-pro-active reforms were undertaken by the Trust in collaboration with the northern railways and the Uttaranchal forest department. This included studying the problem and breaking down the solutions into bit sized chunks that could be done by everyone- patrolling the track at night, clearing bushes and overhangs from strategic points so that train drivers have better visibility, desilting waterholes that elephants used to lessen the need for crossing the track ad public awareness among passengers, train drivers and forest guards.

This report is the result of the first rapid action project that went into the problem and came up with the suit of actions that would solve the problem. With hindsight, these sets of recommendations have proven to be excellent as they have been implemented and the mortality has been completely stopped for five years running to this date.

Vivek Menon
Executive Director, WTI
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