12 big cats killed in accidents triggered by dumping of leftover food: Report
A Madhya Pradesh forest department report has blamed leftover food dumped from pantry cars of trains for triggering accidents that have resulted in deaths of over 100 animals, including five tigers and seven leopards, at Ratapani Tiger Reserve station in Sehore district over the last five years. The 20-km Budhni-Barkheda railway track passes through the sanctuary.
Pradeep Tripathi, the sanctuary’s field director, said the food attracted monkeys and other herbivores to the railway track and they, in turn, drove the big cats there. He added the food was dumped at around eight spots, where the track is very narrow and passes between mountains, and the animals ended up getting trapped and crushed under trains. “This is one of the major reasons behind the death of animals,” said Tripathi, who was among the officers, who prepared the report.
Tripathi said some of the big cats were hit by trains around Gadariya stream, where they would go to have water, near the railway track. “...we are resolving this issue...” Tripathi said the other animals killed near the track include 90 monkeys, deer, and other herbivores over the last five years. He said this year a leopard and a sub-adult tiger died on the track.
Principal chief conservator of forests (wildlife) Alok Kumar said they have written to the railways many times to stop the dumping of leftover food and food packets on the track, but nothing has been done about it. “We sought appointment of guards to check the dumping of food, especially at night so that action could be taken against the pantry car employees. The railways appointed a guard who worked for just two to three days,” he said. “We have suggested mitigation measures to railways to resolve this issue.”
Bhopal divisional railway manager Uday Borwankar said they have rules for dumping leftover foods from pantry cars and their employees have to follow the rules. “ ...big cats have been hit by trains, but it is happening due to the design of the track.” He added they are making a bridge for animals, which will be the first of its kind. “Through the bridge, we will connect the mountains and animals will not need to come down to cross the track. [We are] working on this project. We are also putting fencing to stop animals from passing through vulnerable accident points.’
Wildlife activist Ajay Dubey said that there are proper guidelines for railway tracks passing from a forest area, but both the railways and forest department have failed to follow them. “Blaming leftover food for deaths of animals is a non-serious observation of the forest department,” said Dubey.