According to the Wildlife Trust of India, train collisions have killed 266 elephants between 1987 to 2017. The collisions seem to occur where there is a high elephant habitat, or places termed ‘elephant corridors’.
There are about 20 spots where the rail track crosses such elephant corridors in India, in the Chapramari Forest in West Bengal, for example.
In April this year, four elephants were hit by the Howrah-Mumbai Express at the double-crossing railway tracks near Telidihi village of Jharsugida district in Odisha, where all four animals were killed on the spot.
To prevent similar incidents in future, the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) adopted ‘Plan Bee’ last year.
It uses a device costing about Rs 2,000 which will be installed at level crossings at these accident prone areas. The device works by loudly broadcasting the buzz of swarming honeybees, audible up to 600 meters, a sound that would keep the elephants away. This is because the elephants have a natural fear of the perilous stings of the insects.
Previous methods of accident prevention were seen near an elephant corridor along the Western Ghats in Tamil Nadu. Here, sensors would be mounted near the tracks, which would alert officers if there were elephants nearby. Officers would then be dispatched to the location to chase away the animals.
Though applicable, the method could not be thoroughly depended upon as there were chances of the sensor failing and the threat to human lives.
Other method involved fencing near the elephant corridors, but as it turned out, the fences stood no chance against the powerful animal.
The buzzer installation, however, has been successful ever since the first one was installed near the Guwahati railway station. Piyush Goyal, Minister of Railways, Coal and Corporate Affairs, recently took to Twitter to praise Plan Bee, calling it an “innovative method”.
(Edited by Shruti Singhal)