It has recently been reported that the Western Railway has agreed to limit the speed of trains passing near Gir Forest National Park, in order to prevent any accidents of lions moving through the area. The agreement was reached after a meeting with Western Railway officials in Bombay yesterday in the aftermath of the death of six lions in Gir Forest this year in separate accidents after being hit by trains. As part of the agreement, railway authorities will consider the order of not running goods trains in the hours of morning and evening when there is more movement of lions on railway tracks in Amreli district. In addition, the authorities also agreed to give training to more railroad engineers in order to sharpen them about lions. That is, they would be taught why the lions need to be protected and can they do to guarantee the animals' safety if found on the tracks. This training will be given by forest officials. Furthermore, the forest department will set up a barbed wire fencing in a 30-kilometer area on the railway track that is frequented by lions while the railway will build a tunnel running under the track to allow lions and other animals to safely cross.
This is an extremely good news for conservationists and anybody involved in the protection and well-being of Asiatic lions and other animals in Gir Forest and the surrounding areas. The establishment of railroad tracks has made it difficult for lions to move from one place to another and has resulted in several accidents of being hit by trains. One example was seen in the case of two lionesses being killed by a goods train early this year. As the population of these animals swelled over the years from 180 in 1974 to 411 in 2010, many began dispersing beyond the borders of Gir Forest which brought them into conflicts with people resulting in tragic consequences. For example, they would be killed by trains when crossing railway tracks and even by traps laid by farmers intended for crop-raiding animals. With preventive steps like educating railway operators about what they can do ensure the safety of lions and the construction of barbed wire fencing along with a tunnel running underneath the tracks, it appears that the lions and other animals have a good chance of survival as they move into areas surrounding Gir Forest. I think these steps should also be implemented in other parts of India and the world, especially where there is a great deal of railway activity that could deeply affect the movement of wildlife in such areas.
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