PALAKKAD: In a development that could reduce elephant deaths due to train hits, the jumbos were found using the three ramps set up by the Forests Department of Tamil Nadu at Madukkarai (Tamil Nadu), within two km between the Walayar and Ettimadai sections, multiple times. The finding has come as encouragement to forest officers in the state.
“The ramps were installed by the Forests department near Madukkarai based on videos which showed the frequency of animal movement. If the elephants are using it to swiftly move away from the tracks, it can be emulated on the Kerala side too,” said elephant expert P S Easa. “We have seen camera visuals showing elephants using the ramps over 50 times. This is encouraging. A watchtower has been built along the tracks and they too are seeing elephants use the ramp,” said a Tamil Nadu Forest Department officer.
“The Line B was opened in 1974 and has a ruling gradient of 1 in 100,” said a railway officer not wishing to be named.
Palakkad DFO Narendranath Velluri said due to the steep gradient in Line B, trains had to maintain a constant speed.“Therefore, in such areas, ramps set up near cuttings could help the animals move down safely. However, we have no plans to set up ramps on the Kerala side and have deputed 12 watchers on the stretch for patrolling,” Velluri said.
“The tracks laid on raised earthen bund built above the forest floor do not give elephants any free space to move away when a train approaches, causing them to get hit. Bushes and turnings also reduce visibility both for the elephant and the loco pilot. The better option in such areas could be an underpass. Stretches where the tracks are elevated and no ramps are provided should be fenced. However, in Kerala and Tamil Nadu, the situation is not as complex as in Assam,” said Dr Ashraf , senior director of the Wild Life Trust of India which had conducted a study for two years on the section and suggested recommendations as part of a Railways’ project.
Data from the Palakkad railway division said 17 wild elephants had died while crossing railway tracks in the 30 km-long Kanjikode-Walayar-Ettimadai-Madukkarai stretch between 2002 and November 16, 2017.