Walayar: A tusker, leader of a herd of wild elephants that have made it a habit to roam populated areas, was hit by a train and killed while trying to cross a track near the Walayar forest area. The elephant, which was called Jagannathan, was crossing the B Line railway track at around 5.20am Saturday when the Mangaluru-Chennai train struck it. Jagannadhan was thrown off to a distance of 15 metres.
Forest officials said it was thrown off to the Vilikket area opposite to the Velancheri Mala. The animal had destroyed cultivation in Puthussery and surrounding areas on Saturday, and was withdrawing from there into the woods when it was hit.
Jagannathan was one of three elephants which had drifted out of the Walayar-Dhoni forest and scared populated areas as they headed for Thiruvilwamala. Jagannathan, aged 25, was known as the most violent of the three.
His tusk, curved upwards, had brought Jagannathan the pet name 'Chullikomban,' or the elephant with the curved tusk. Forest officials say he was there in all three herds of elephants which roamed populated areas.
The herd used to attract other elephants into it as it roamed the villages and towns.
24 deaths in 18 years
Farmers had found the elephant lying dead in the morning. A team of forest officials arrived after they were informed. The forest department has filed a case against the Railways, citing excess speed of the express train.
The elephant was buried at the location of the accident after post-mortem. A primary report from the veterinary surgeon says the animal died because its internal organs including the intestine was smashed in the impact of the accident.
This is the 18th death of an elephant in the past 24 years along the Kanjikode-Coimbatore track.
A proposal to set up barricades to prevent wild elephants from entering populated areas is gathering dust in some government office. The barricades were proposed from Walayar to Mundur and also alongside railway tracks in the forest areas.These areas face regular threat from the animals. Neither the Railways nor the forest department is taking any initiative.
The government had sanctioned Rs 8 crore for the first stage of the project, which could have covered six kilometres. A committee that included the divisional forest officer, wild life inspector, representatives of the Railways and panchayats was tasked with the work. A survey was undertaken, but the project just remained on paper.
The wild elephants regularly use the railway tracks in the Kanjikode-Valayar area to cross over to the populated areas. Barricades made with the iron bars of rail tracks can block them. The Wildlife Protection Society and others have appealed to the government not to give up the project, but there had been no action.
Wild tuskers have claimed two human lives in the past one-and-a half months, and two elephants have died in train hit. Yet protection measures remain a farce. Trenches were dug up and solar barricades were erected, but the result was only a waste of crores.
Wild elephants that scare the Valayar-Kanjikode forest area come from Coimbatore forests. They are similar in behaviour, but different in looks. The tusker with tusk pointing upwards is called Chullikomban. One that has a trauma on its foot is identified as Chappakalan, and the one with his tusk curved like a hook is named Churlikomban.
What needs to be done
Speed of trains should be regulated strictly in the Kanjikode-Valayar section, which is an elephant-protected area. Filing of cases is a routine when elephants are struck down by trains, but there had been no legal action.
Trains which run without sounding horn should face stringent legal action.
More watchmen should be appointed. As of now there are only eight in six sections.
Services on the B Line track should be trimmed. Or else a new parallel track has to be built.