"The Western Railway has agreed to reduce the speed limit of goods trains on the route passing through areas of movement of Asiatic lions so that a driver can prevent an accident if lions or cubs cross the rail tracks," Gujarat's Chief Conservator of Forests R L Meena said on Wednesday, after a meeting with Western Railway officials in Mumbai on Tuesday.

The meeting was held in the wake of the death of six Asiatic lions of Gir forest this year in separate accidents after being run over by trains.

The railway authorities have also agreed to consider the demand of not running goods trains in morning and evening hours when there is more movement of lions on rail track in Amreli district, Meena said.

They agreed to reschedule timings of running goods trains near these rail tracks, he said.

The railway authorities have also agreed to impart training to more train drivers to sensitize them about lions, on why big cats need to be protected and what can the drivers do to ensure the safety of animals if found on tracks. The training will be imparted by forest officials, he said.

The Forest Department will bear the expenditure of barbed wire fencing in 30 km area on railway track in Amreli frequented by lions, while the railway will construct an under passage (running under the rail track) for enabling movement of lions and other wild animals, the official said.

The lion population has steadily increased in Gir forest, more than doubling from a low of 180 in 1974 to 411 big cats, comprising 97 adult males, 162 adult females, 75 sub-adults and 77 cubs, as of April 2010, sources said.

The Gir national park and wildlife sanctuary in Western Gujarat is the only habitat for Asiatic lions.

About 100-150 lions have permanently settled in the coastal areas around Rajula and Jafrabad towns of Amreli.


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