Honeybee sounds save elephants from train deaths

Railways may emulate honeybee sound model to prevent elephant deaths

A unique method taking inspiration from nature has helped prevent many elephant deaths on tracks in Assam since 2017.

Amplified version of honey bees' sound, which was downloaded from internet, helped chase away elephants from railway tracks.

Wildlife groups say that the gentle giants are afraid of the sound of honey bees and with this they can be chased away with the sound source 600 m away.

Impressed with the positive results of the innovation of the Northeast Frontier Railways (NFR), Union Railways Minister Piyush Goyal has shown interest to emulate the same technique in rest of the country, where elephant deaths on tracks has become a concern. 

"The minister was impressed with our pilot project first used under Rangiya railway division last year. The minister said that this mechanism may be considered for use in other parts since the rural innovation has been found to be useful and can bring in real transformation," said Pranav Jyoti Sharma, chief public relations officer of NFR, based at its headquarters in Guwahati.

Goyal was in Guwahati on Saturday to take stock of the railway projects in the Northeast and asked officials to speed up their implementation.

There are 27 elephant corridors under the NFR which covers north Bengal, parts of eastern Bihar and the Northeast.

The NFR's Rangiya division had successfully installed a mechanism where sound of honey bees is amplified whenever elephants are spotted near railway tracks to chase them away, thereby saving wild elephants from being hit by trains.

The same was later adopted in Alipurduar division in North Bengal.

A forum of wildlife conservationist groups recently said that at least 80 elephants die every year in man-elephant conflicts in the country with 655 deaths reported between 2009 and 2017, including 120 by trains.

Assam has reported at least 40 elephant deaths in the past one year, most of which were train accidents.

This include six elephants hit by the Guwahati-Naharlagun Express on December 10 last year in Sonitpur district of central Assam. Both Railways and the state forest department blame each other for the casualties.

Bengal, Uttarakhand, Jharkhand, Tamil Nadu, Uttar Pradesh, Odisha and Kerala have reported similar elephant deaths.

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