12 Nov 2006 06:51:26 GMT
By Sharat Pradhan
LUCKNOW, India Nov 12 (Reuters) - At least four endangered tigers have been run over by trains in a reserve in north India in the past three years, local officials said, renewing calls to railway authorities to find an alternate route.
The Dudhwa National Park has 77 tigers, according to a 2005 census, but these animals were increasingly at threat from the trains that travel through the sanctuary,wildlife officials said.
"Four tigers were killed over the past three years after being run over by trains", Mohammad Ehsan, chief wildlife conservator of Uttar Pradesh state where the sanctuary is located, said.
India has half the world's surviving tigers, but conservationists say the country is losing the battle to save the big cats.
Decades of poaching have cut the number of tigers to 3,700 from 40,000 tigers a century ago. Some activists say their number could be as low as 1,200.
Uttar Pradesh officials said they had repeatedly urged railway authorities to stop the movement of trains in the Dudhwa park but there had been no response.
The country's vast railway network that carries about 14 million passengers every day traverses forests and sanctuaries where rushing trains at night often run over elephants, deer and boars.
"On the one hand, the Prime Minister has set up a tiger task force to check the decline in the number of tigers and here his own railway ministry does not even pay heed to our repeated requests," Ehsan said.
Last year, a special panel formed by Prime Minister Manmohan Singh said the tiger was under siege from poachers and people living in protected jungles, and called for thousands of villagers inside India's 28 tiger reserves to be relocated to save the endangered animal.