Saturday, 25 June 2011

Three Sri Lankan elephants killed after being hit by train

Investigation now underway

June 2011: Three wild elephants have died in Sri Lanka after being hit by a passenger train.

The three elephants were crossing the rail track when they were hit by the train. A baby elephant was among the group of three females and it is also believed that one of the females was about 22 months pregnant.

Sri Lanka Railways and the Wildlife Department have jointly started a probe on the deaths of elephants. The elephants were killed when they crossed the tracks in a forested area near Ambanpola, 93 miles from the train's final destination, Sri Lanka's capital Colombo.

Second incident this year
The investigators are probing to verify whether the train was speeding or whether the location of the accident is a regular elephant path.

Director General of Wildlife Conservation Department Dr. Chandrawansa Pathiraja said that steps have been taken to build safety fences near the elephant passes and to clear the sides of the rail tracks so the engine drivers could see the elephants.

‘This is the worst train accident involving elephants I can remember,' said railway general manager Wije Samarasinghe. ‘About two months ago, three elephants were hit by another train in the east of the country and two of them died.'

Elephants in danger
At least 100 elephants are killed on the island each year, mostly by farmers, while marauding elephants raiding villages also claim the lives of about 50 people annually. Elephants are considered sacred animals in Sri Lanka, but they increasingly clash with farmers as habitat becomes scarce; they are also killed by trains and high-voltage power lines.

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