In a tragic turn of events for elephant lovers, at least five of the animals from India died over the weekend while crossing railroad tracks and getting struck by an oncoming train. The incident reportedly took place Sunday near a tea plantation found in the Sontipur district of Assam.
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Of the five deceased elephants, four were females, and the last was a jumbo male. Even more upsetting, one of the four females appeared to be pregnant with a baby at the time of the impact, and attempts to recover the baby immediately following the accident had failed.
Authorities chimed in, underscoring how elephants don’t usually trek through this particular region. No one thought there would be any elephants crossing train tracks where the five had died; consequently, there weren't any speed limits in place at the time. With hindsight being 20/20, things are changing now.
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The situation highlights an ongoing battle regarding animal conservation efforts; particularly those concerning deforestation. As elephants lose their natural roaming ground, they explore unfamiliar territory in search of food.
Regrettably, animals become more arduous to predict whenever they veer away from their natural migration patterns. Elephants could (quite literally) pop up anywhere without warning, and by then it’s often too late to warn the railways.
Given just how little we know about elephants and how they adapt to deforestation, increased herd tracking might be a good start. One might even suggest improvements to railway patrol, as we could alert railways much sooner before a herd approaches train tracks.
Only time will tell how Assam will deal with the problem of wandering elephant herds. With only around 5,620 elephants remaining in the region as of 2011, we can't just shrug this issue off. Something needs to happen so that we can prevent these types of accidents going forward.