In what has proved to be one of the worst years for wildlife in Odisha, five elephants were mowed down by an express train near Rambha in Ganjam district on Saturday night. One of the five was a two-month-old calf and another, a pregnant jumbo.
The Chennai-bound Coromandel Express rammed into the herd of seven elephants between Rambha and Huma stations under the Khurda Road-Berhampur section at about 00.43 am. The train, which was hurtling at a speed of about 120 km hit the herd, killing five of the pachyderms instantly. Such was the impact that the womb of the pregnant elephant was split open and the grown foetus was thrown away quite at a distance.
The train, which escaped a major scare, also suffered damage due to the collision and had to be detained. It was at 7.30 am that it resumed its journey to Chennai after the railway authorities took stock of track conditions since the driver had to brake to bring the locomotive under control.
The herd, which originally belonged to Chandaka Wildlife Sanctuary, had moved to Rambha and Huma areas in 2009 and had been kept confined near the Narayani Hills by two kumki elephants for three years. A couple of months ago, the Wildlife Wing decided to do away with the kumkis — Sobha and Mahendra — and sent them back to Simlipal, thereby exposing the herd to mishaps. The incident has led to a showdown between the Wildlife Wing and the East Coast Railways.