WARNING: GRAPHIC VIDEO
Two calves are among seven elephants killed after a horrific train collision on an Indian reserve.
The crash, described as the worst of its kind in recent memory by one government minister, also left ten other elephants seriously injured, while another elephant was lying by the tracks with a broken back, The Times Of India reported. It is not expected to survive.
The carcass of one of the elephants killed after being hit by a speeding train hangs from a railway bridge
The death toll could still rise, it was warned, as there was a lot of alarmed trumpeting and commotion in the forests near the tracks.
The train was travelling at 50mph (80kph) when it struck the herd of about 40 elephants, Sky News reported.
The animals scattered but later returned to the scene of the crash, before being driven off the tracks by forest guards and train staff.
Tragic pictures taken at the scene showed the carcass of one of the poor creatures hanging from a bridge.
Hiten Burman, the forestry minister in West Bengal, said railway authorities had ignored requests from his department to reduce the speed of trains in Jalpaiguri district, which is home to a number of elephant herds.
“The incident is a result of callousness on the part of the Railways. There is a clear restriction on speed, not exceeding 40 kmph. But we have reports that the Guwahati-bound Kabiguru Express was running at a higher speed,” he told The Hindu.
Animesh Basu, a wildlife activist and co-ordinator of the Himalayan Nature and Adventure Foundation, said at least 50 elephants had been killed by trains in West Bengal since 2004.
He blamed unrestricted train movements for the latest accident.
"It's an irony that elephants are being killed by speeding trains in north Bengal at regular intervals, even though it's been declared as the heritage animal in India and an elephant cub is the mascot of Indian Railways," Mr Basu added.
India's wild elephant population was recently estimated at about 26,000, according to the World Wildlife Fund.
The charity said about 40 animals are killed each year, with habitat loss among the biggest threats to their survival.