Big Cats Dy­ing on MP’s Train Tracks

India Today - - UPFRONT - —Rahul Noronha

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

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