In this file picture, people look on as an elephant crosses a road near the Kaziranga National Park in Assam, India. Image Credit: PTI

Chennai: The Tamil Nadu forest department has registered a case under Section 9 of the Wildlife Protection Act against two locomotive pilots over knocking three elephants to death while they were crossing the rail track.

The incident happened on Friday at 9pm and the case was filed on Saturday.

The main loco pilot and assistant loco pilot who was running the Mangalore- Chennai Express (12602) on Friday, were charged under the Wildlife Act.

Tamil Nadu Principal Conservator of Forests and Chief Wildlife warden Shekar Kumar Niraj told reporters that the loco pilots were released after recording their statements. He said that both the loco pilots have assured the forest department that they would cooperate in the investigation.

The forest department, according to senior officials, is of the opinion that the two loco pilots were handling the train negligently as the track where the accident took place was a straight track and the loco pilots could easily see the elephants walking on the side of the track.

Southern Railway, in reply to the forest department’s decision to register a case against the loco pilots, in a tweet said, “The Railways is extending its best cooperation to the Forest Department. Investigation is in progress. At the moment there is no evidence supporting the claim of negligence on the part of the loco pilots. It is being discussed only as a possibility.”

However, Tamil Nadu forest department conservator S.Balasubramanian told media persons that the forest department had registered a case after preliminary investigation.

Loco Pilots Association and Southern Railway union members picketed a five-member forest department team from Coimbatore at the MEMU shed in Palakkad.

The Forest department veterinarians, Dr.A. Sukumar and Dr. Rajesh Kumar, conducted the autopsies of the three elephants, which included a 25-year-old female elephant, a tuskless male elephant (Makna) aged around 15, and a six-year-old female calf around 6 years of age.