Guwahati: Five elephants were killed after being hit by a train while crossing rail tracks in Assam's Hojai district, a forest official said today.
An official from World Wildlife Fund says, areas in Assam where elephant deaths are on the rise have lost 70 per cent of its forest cover, forcing the animals to stray into villages. Four elephants died on the spot while one injured pachyderm is battling for life.
A North East Frontier Railway spokesman said the trains maintain a speed limit of 20 km per hour in the elephant corridors. The impact of the collision derailed the engine but no passengers were injured. Locals claimed that the area had already been identified as an elephant corridor, and they had waved at the train driver to ask him to stop.
He told the newspaper: "It is only because of the close co-ordination between field level officials of both the forest and railway department that many elephants were saved".
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Though, state forest department has developed a mechanism to monitor the movement of elephant herds besides setting up an anti-depredation squads to protect the elephants from such disaster, it is yet to work effectively.
India has almost 30,000 elephants and, as of a 2011 census, Assam was home to around 5,600 of them.
The Asian elephants of Assam have been declared as "endangered" by the International Union for Conservation of Nature.