Railways have turned out to be doubly dangerous than poachers in West Bengal in the past four years.
“While poachers have killed just 16 animals between April 2011 and January 2015, trains have killed 38 animals, including 27 elephants during the same period,” said B Barman, state forest minister, in the state legislative assembly on Tuesday.
He was answering to a question raised by senior Congress legislator Manas Bhunia.
According to statistics laid down by the forest minister in the assembly house, 27 elephants, seven pythons, two bison (gaur), one leopard cat and one chital deer were killed in train accidents over the past four years. The maximum deaths occurred in 2013-2014 when 13 elephants were killed in one year.
Compared to this, poachers killed five elephants, three bison (gaur), two rhinos, two chital deer, one sambar and three wild boars were killed since April 2011.
The 168-km railway track between New Jalpaiguri and Alipurduar is nicked ‘Killer Track’. The track cuts through the Dooars and Terai passing through numerous tea gardens and forest areas, including Buxa, Jaldapara, Chapramari, Mahananda and Apalchand.
“This track has always proved to be a curse for the rich wildlife of the region. But things worsened once the track was converted into broad gauge from meter gauge in 2003,” said a wildlife expert.
According to reports, while 26 elephants were killed in this region in train accidents between 1974 and 2003, another 50 were killed in 10 years on the track following the gauge conversion.
This apart at least six animals including four leopards and an elephant were poisoned by villagers as a result of man-animal conflict.
“Both rhinos were killed in January this year,” said the forest minister adding that a number of steps were being taken such as creating awareness among the locals, strengthening forest guards with more sophisticated weapons and setting up legal cells in the national parks and sanctuaries to bring down the number of such incidents.