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Tuesday, Oct 15, 2019

On a 3-km stretch in Pokhran, speeding trains kill 42 vultures in five weeks

The vultures were run over by trains while feeding on carcass of animals on the railway tracks in four separate incidents

jaipur Updated: Jan 04, 2018 20:54 IST
Salik Ahmad
Salik Ahmad
Hindustan Times
One of the vultures that was run over by a train in Jaisalmer's Pokhran area.
One of the vultures that was run over by a train in Jaisalmer's Pokhran area.(HT Photo)

The death of 42 vultures on railway tracks in Jaisalmer’s Pokhran area in the past five weeks has raised concern among the wildlife lovers.

The vultures were run over by trains while feeding on animal carcasses on the railway tracks in four incidents, the latest happening on the railway track between Dholia and Khetolai villages of the area on Wednesday, forest officials said.

Local wildlife activists said that there are a large number of stray cattle, including camels, in the area that often get killed by the passing trains. When vultures assemble on the accident sites to feed on the dead animals, they too get killed by the running trains.

The accidents have occurred in a 3-km stretch and have killed mostly Eurasian Griffon or Cinereous vultures, both migratory vultures and listed as threatened species by the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

“All the stray cattle from the district are brought and released in the area. In addition, there is a cow shelter nearby, which releases the cows in the open it is unable to manage,” said Radhe Shyam Bishnoi (21), member of the Akhil Bharatiya Jeev Raksha Bishnoi Sabha. The Bishnois, a community in western Rajasthan, are known for protecting animals and trees.

Experts said that most of the migratory vultures killed were sub-adults. “There are usually 40-50 vultures feeding on a carcass at a time, of which 10-15 have their heads buried deep in the flesh of the animal. When the train comes, those 10-15 ones are run over,” said Anil Chhangani, associate professor of environmental science at Maharaja Ganga Singh University in neighbouring Bikaner and member of IUCN.

Chhangani added that the vultures are heavy birds and their reaction time is more, as compared to other birds, which contribute to their casualties. “A vulture weighs easily between 8-12 kg. It runs for some 15-20 metres before it can take off. So the speeding trains don’t give much time to the bird to escape,” he said.

According to a census done by his team in March 2016, there are roughly 7,500 vultures in Rajasthan which include three varieties of migratory vultures and four of resident vultures. The migratory ones come mostly from Spain, Siberia, Mongolia, China, Tibet and the Himalayan region.

Chhangani also pointed out other reasons for the death of vultures at the railway tracks – the dumping ground for dead animals, which lies nearby, water holes in the area, and the grazing ground for animals through which the railway track runs. The vultures like to sit at a clear and elevated place while resting, and the railway tracks being 3-4 feet higher provide an ideal place for them where they spread their wings and bask in the sun, he added.

Meanwhile, forest and railway officials expressed their limitations at resolving the issue. “We have written to the railway officials several times to keep the track clear, but they have not acted so far. We have removed carcasses ourselves at times, but we do not have the resources to clean the track every day,” said Brij Mohan Gupta, assistant conservator of forest, Pokhran.

Railway officials, on the other hand, said that the tracks are cleared by their gangmen regularly. “We have instructed our men to throw the carcasses as far as possible from the tracks. But they can’t throw it on private land or beyond the railway land,” said Gopal Sharma, senior public relations officer, North Western Railway, Jodhpur.

First Published: Jan 04, 2018 20:42 IST

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