Assam mulls thermal sensors along rail tracks to reduce elephant deaths

Guwahati, Dec 8 (IANS) Expressing concern over the death of elephants in the state due to conflict with humans as well as train collisions, Assam Forest Minister Pramila Rani Brahma on Thursday said that the government is contemplating to use thermal sensors along the railway tracks to detect the movement of elephants particularly during night.

Addressing a press conference in her office, she said that the Forest Department is also mulling to involve local people as well as to strengthen the coordination with railway authorities to stop elephant fatalities.

“It is a fact that the number of elephants are increasing in Assam and their habitations are reducing. According to the last elephant census in 2011, Assam has 5,620 elephants. Besides the state also see large number of elephant migration from Meghalaya and Bhutan,” she said adding that all these factors have reduced the elephant habitats in the state, forcing the animals to often come out from forests to be either engage in conflict with humans or to get killed by speeding trains on tracks.

The Minister said that the state had lost a total of seven elephants till date since May this year after being hit by speeding trains. Apart from this, two elephants were killed by poisoning and one by poachers.

“We have taken the matter seriously. We cannot let this happen again and again. Our department is mulling over a host of measures to reduce incidents of elephants death as well as human elephant conflicts,” she said adding that decisions have been taken to press NGOs into service to reduce man-elephant conflicts.

“We are also going to sit with the Railway Department so that we are in a position to strictly implement the minimum speed of trains while crossing elephant corridors,” she said adding that anti-depredation squads have been formed in association with local youth and training is being imparted to them to deal with man-animal conflict as well as to prevent untoward incidents regarding the safety of wild animals.

The Minister admitted here is scarcity of well-trained veterinarians in Assam to attend to the wild animals. “We have decided to ask the veterinary university to open up a specialised wing so that their services can be hired for treating animals in wild during emergencies,” said Brahma.