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Abstract

Linear developments like railways and highways have a negative impact on ecological processes of wildlife species at a landscape level. The impacts in terms of wildlife mortality and threat to surviving populations of species have been well-studied; however, less work has been done to understand the potential causes of train–wildlife collisions, particularly large mega-fauna such as Asian elephants (Elephas maximus; elephant). In this case study, we review train–elephant collisions (TECs) that occurred in Rajaji National Park (RNP) and discuss some potential causes of TECs along with mitigation measures. The RNP, located in the upper Gangetic plains of northern India, has been an elephant conservation stronghold. However, 25 elephants have been killed from 1987–2018 in TECs along 18 km of the Haridwar-Dehradun railway track, which connects the RNP with the Corbett Tiger Reserve. Most of the collisions occurred during night and in summer months. Preliminary observations suggest that the social bonds among the groups of elephants and their relatively large home ranges, coupled with the speed of the trains and sharp turning radius, appear to be related to the collisions. Based on this information, mitigation measures should include reducing the speed of the train in high-risk areas and periods as well as habitat modifications such as developing recharging natural water sources. These measures could be coordinated with railway managers and wildlife officials. Scientific studies and related outreach programs that increase awareness among local communities and railway managers about the causes, impacts, and measures could also be organized to minimize negative human–elephant interactions.

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