A unique strategy adopted by the Northeast Frontier Railway to keep wild elephants away from train tracks has won the ‘Best Innovation Award’, an official said here Tuesday.
The prize, awarded by the Indian Railways, comprise a citation and a cash award of Rs 3 lakh, he said.
With a large portion of rail tracks passing through forested areas in Assam, elephants would often come in the way of speeding trains, resulting in their deaths, NFR Chief Public Relations Officer (CPRO) Pranav Jyoti Sharma said.
The NFR, in a bid to tackle the problem, came up with ‘Plan Bee’ in 2017 and installed devices at several level crossings in the state to play the sound of buzzing honey bees to drive away the pachyderms.
Studies suggest elephants are scared of swarming bees.
“Although there are as many as 29 earmarked wildlife corridors, where trains slow down and drivers restrict speed as a norm, elephants have often ventured into train tracks beyond the corridors.
“From 2013 to June 2019, a total of 67 elephants have been knocked down by trains,” Sarma said.
With elephant population in Assam coming down to 5620, the CPRO said, the NFR had been desperate to find a way to deal with the burgeoning problem.
The field officers in the Rangiya division of NFR, in consultation with forest department officials, then decided to use deterrents to “repel elephants from the tracks”, he said.
The then divisional railway manager Ravilesh Kumar took the lead to form a team, comprising railway officials and engineers, to carry out a test with the sound of buzzing honey bees on a pet elephant at Rangapara, Sarma said.
“Following two successful trials, an equipment was designed to generate amplified sound of honey bees from a distance of about 700-800 m, with the first instrument installed at level crossing gate between Azara and Kamakhya stations under Rangiya division,” the CPRO maintained.
The results were found to be encouraging, he said.
The instrument was then installed in several level crossing gates in the vicinity of forest areas.
“The gateman posted at the level crossing gates, where the device has been installed, claimed that the strategy has been helpful in diverting herds of elephants, especially when trains are approaching,” he added.