AimRailway lines in fragile ecosystems often have severe negative impacts on wildlife. The Siliguri-Alipurduar rail line in North Bengal has had for one of the highest elephant-train casualties in India. We conducted this study to assess (a)spatial and temporal patterns as well as characteristics of elephant-train casualties (b)occurrence of elephants, as well as human-elephant conflict on either side of the line, (c)stakeholder perceptions of the conflict.
MethodsBetween August 2012-Feb 2013, we (a)collected elephant casualty data from 1974-2013, evaluated temporal patterns & used logistic regression models to identify sections of the railway line with higher casualty risk (b) used interview surveys of 133 households (HH) to obtain elephant occurrence and conflict on either side of the line (c)used interview surveys of 133 HH and 15 train operators to understand their perceptions of the conflict.
ResultsCasualties increased post gauge conversion of the line, was higher during monsoons, winters, and night. Closer distances to curve and higher forest cover increased casualty risk. Closer distances to PAs and greater forest, cropland and tea-garden cover increased elephant occurrence. HH thought increase train numbers and speed caused increased conflict; Train operators believed speed control, visibility & lack of proper warning systems were main causes.
ConservationOur study provides an overall understanding of the conflict between railways and elephants in North Bengal (1) Our spatial maps of casualty risk, elephant occurrence and HEC can help identify hotspots of conflict (2) We identify problems faced by train operators as well as provide suggestions & measures (3) Our findings can aid managers and planners of railway in designing effective mitigation measures for the current as well as future railway projects of similar nature