Elephant Passes

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The Bengal forest department and the Northeast Frontier (NF) Railway have proposed underpasses and overbridges to protect jaywalking elephants in the northern part of the state. The designated safe passages will be constructed along the 74 km of rail tracks that pass through forests—prime elephant habitat—in the Dooars area of North Bengal. Trains hurtling down these tracks routinely mow down wild elephants: nearly 20 have been killed in the past three years. Wildlife experts have ridiculed the idea, pointing out that wild elephants can’t be disciplined to use these passes instead of simply crossing the tracks. They say it would make more sense to divert trains through a longer route, skirting the forests, and for trains to stop plying at night. But foresters, who are identifying spots to construct the over and under passes, hold that elephants are wise and will soon understand that it’s in their interest to use them.