India

Despite railways' 'Plan Bee', elephants continue to die on rail tracks; 48 killed since 2019

A tusker crossing a concrete structure at a railway track near Coonoor. File

A tusker crossing a concrete structure at a railway track near Coonoor. File | Photo Credit: M. Sathyamoorthy

The railways' "Plan Bee" to keep elephants off the rail tracks seems to have failed to get the desired results with 48 pachyderms and 188 other animals killed by running trains since 2019, according to official figures.

The maximum number of 72 animal fatalities was reported from the South East Central zone, which is headquartered at Bilaspur and comprises the Bilaspur, Nagpur and Raipur divisions. However, no elephant was killed in this zone.

The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) registered the highest number of elephant deaths — four in 2019, six in 2020, five in 2021 and two so far in 2022, taking the toll to 17 in the said period.

The deaths did not abate even during the suspension of all services by the railways to curb the spread of the coronavirus. While 16 elephants and 38 other animals were killed on the tracks in 2020, 10 pachyderms were killed in 2019, 19 in 2021 and three till February in 2022.

In 2017, the Indian Railways launched a unique method called "Plan Bee" to keep elephants away from railway tracks. It is an amplifying system imitating the buzz of a swarm of honey bees.

Through this device, the buzzing sound of bees will be audible from a distance of 600 metres.

The railways has been looking into the issue after animal deaths on the tracks increased sharply between 1987 and 2010. In the 23-year period, 150 elephants died while crossing railway tracks. Between 2009 and 2017, in just eight years, 120 elephants were killed on railway tracks.

Thirty-five pachyderms were killed on railway tracks from 2014 to 2016 and five were killed in 2017 till July, according to official figures.

Over the years, the railways has taken a number of measures to prevent animal deaths, especially on tracks.

Railway zones like NFR have also adopted measures in collaboration with the forest department such as real-time monitoring of elephant movement by forest officials posted at divisional controls, imposing speed restrictions at identified locations, providing signboards to alert drivers as the trains approach elephant corridors, constructing ramps or underpasses for elephant crossing and clearing forest near the tracks for better visibility.

Forest department staff is also deputed in railway control offices to liaison with the railway and elephant trackers are engaged by the forest department for timely action by alerting the station masters and loco pilots.


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Printable version | Aug 8, 2022 12:35:05 am | https://www.thehindu.com/news/national/despite-railways-plan-bee-elephants-continue-to-die-on-rail-tracks-48-killed-since-2019/article65363916.ece