Big Cats Dying on MP’s Train Tracks
The railways is proving to be a formidable enemy of big cats in Madhya Pradesh. Two tigers and two leopards have been run over by trains in just the past three months, most recently on April 15. Strangely, three of the four big cats were killed more or less on the same spot— the mid-ghat section on the Bhopal Hoshangabad line.
Why the alarming rise in frequency of such accidents? The mid-ghat section lies within the Ratapani Tiger Reserve, where the tiger population has increased from between 18 and 21, as estimated in the 2011 tiger census, to around 35 now, say forest officials. A popular theory is that the cats are being hit by trains as they cross the tracks to get to nearby watering holes. A train passes through the section almost every 10 minutes. “Train drivers have been asked to slow down and honk several times as they cross,” says R.P. Singh, additional principal chief conservator of forests.
H.S. Pabla, a former chief wildlife warden of Madhya Pradesh, suggests tigers and panthers traverse tight spaces more than herbivores, but acknowledges that he is merely speculating. Others argue that the waste by the tracks attracts dogs, cows, pigs and other domesticated animals, which the big cats see as easy prey, putting themselves in harm’s way.
But forest officials confess they cannot explain why big cats in particular should be vulnerable to these trains. Shouldn’t they find out?
4 big cats run over by trains in the past three months
CALLOUS A dead tiger on the Bhopal-Hoshangabad railway line