A busy railway line, which passes through the thick jungles of northwest Karnataka, has turned into a death trap for endangered wild animals.
An adult male gaur (wild ox) was recently mowed down by a speeding train on the Dharwad-Alnavar-Londa-Khanapur-Belagavi railway line. Scores of elephants, gaur, leopard and dhole (wild dog) have been crushed by passenger as well as freight trains on the railway section.
Gaur is protected under Schedule I of the Wildlife Protection Act, 1972, and is an important prey for tigers, leopards and dhole. The area where the latest incident took place is also an important elephant corridor. Apart from this, the entire region is part of the Sharavathi-Dandeli-Khanapur tiger landscape and repeated pleas by conservationists to the Indian Railways to adopt measures to prevent the death of wildlife have been in vain.
"This is not the first but the fourth time that a gaur has been knocked down on the same railway line. The trains mowed down gaurs in February this year and twice last year. An alarming number of wild animals have been crushed to death by the trains on the same corridor, which adjoins Bhimgadh and Dandeli Wildlife Sanctuaries," local wildlife activist Giridhar Kulkarni said.
In further cause of worry, the railways has decided to undertake track-doubling work along the same stretch. "The South Western Railways have already commenced work to double the tracks. There is an urgent need to take up mitigation measures to reduce the wildlife mortality due to train accidents in this area," Kulkarni added.
In many cases, it has been noticed that pantry staff throw unused food on the tracks, thereby attracting the animals to the line. In addition, the locomotive drivers do not have any specific instruction to operate the trains at low speed near elephant corridors or wherever wildlife is sighted.
"The drivers have not been sensitised about the need to maintain a minimum speed when the train passes through the jungles. This is some basic training which will help curb wildlife mortality because of the speeding trains," conservationist B. Manjunath said. Conservationists have suggested many measures to curb the accidents, but none has been implemented so far.