A herd of elephants making its way back over railroad tracks after searching for food met tragedy in separate accidents early Monday morning and again early Tuesday morning in Assam, India.
Just after midnight on Sunday, nearly 25 elephants were crossing the tracks, making their way from the nearby hills of Karbi Anglong district, when a speeding train ran into them, according to Hindustan Times and The Indian Express.
"One of the elephants was a 4-year-old female, while two others were pregnant," local forest officer Shafiqur Rahman told the Times. "One of them aborted a 2-month-old fetus after the accident and we found a 4-month-old fetus inside the other while conducting post mortem."
Eyewitnesses said the train was traveling fast despite the fact the area has been frequented by several elephants in recent weeks, though it isn't a known elephant corridor.
"Since the past 10-12 days, a herd of nearly 60 elephants had been crossing the tracks daily in search of food in the paddy fields on the other side," Rahman said. "We had held a meeting with railway officials and informed them about it."
A day later, in the Goalpara district, a speeding train killed an elephant and severely injured another when striking them, The Indian Express reported.
"It is a clear case of a railway train knocking down the two elephants. We are, however, yet to ascertain which train had hit them," Goalpara district spokesman to the Express. "Circumstantial evidence showed the incident occurred as a herd of wild elephants were trying to cross the railway track from north to south.
"It appears that the two hit by the train were at the front of the herd. The herd is still stuck inside the Kanyakuchi reserved forest north of the railway track."
The injured elephant, a female estimated to be 20-25 years old, sustained a right hind leg injury and was being treated by veterinarians from the State Zoo in Guwahati.
"It is a very sad incident," forest minister Pramila Rani Brahma told the Hindustan Times after the first tragedy. "I have instructed officials of my department to hold meetings with their railway counterparts to ensure that such accidents don't get repeated."
It isn't the first time this has happened. In September, two adult elephants were killed when a high-speed train struck them. And in the worst accident of its kind, on Nov. 13, 2013, five adult elephants and two calves were killed and 10 others were injured when struck by a train traveling through the Chapramari Forest.
Assam reportedly has nearly 6,000 wild elephants. India is thought to have about 26,000.
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