Honour for ‘Plan Bee’ that helped save jumbos

Amplifying system imitating buzz earns NFR award

July 09, 2019 10:32 pm | Updated 10:34 pm IST - Guwahati

A Plan Bee amplifier at a crossing.

A Plan Bee amplifier at a crossing.

Plan Bee, an amplifying system imitating the buzz of a swarm of honey bees to keep wild elephants away from railway tracks, on Tuesday earned the Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) the best innovation award in Indian Railways for the 2018-19 fiscal.

The first prize comprises a citation along with a cash award of ₹3 lakh.

There are 29 earmarked elephant corridors with the operating zone of NFR spread across the north-eastern states and parts of Bihar and West Bengal. Trains are required to slow down at these corridors and adhere to speed specified on signs.

“But elephants have ventured into the path of trains even in non-corridor areas, often leading to accidents resulting in elephant deaths. NFR’s Rangiya Division and Forest Department field officials worked on certain deterrents and provide a solution to the problem,” NFR spokesperson Pranav Jyoti Sharma said.

The desperation to find an “elephant repellent” was triggered by 67 pachyderms being knocked down by trains from 2013 to June 2019. Most of these cases were reported from Assam and northern West Bengal.

Headed by Ravilesh Kumar, the former Divisional Railway Manager of Rangiya Division, a team tested the honey bee buzz on a domestic elephant in north-eastern Assam’s Rangapara. The second test at a tea estate under Rangiya Division proved successful on a herd of wild elephants.

A device was subsequently designed to generate the amplified sound of honey bees audible from 700-800 metres. The first instrument was installed at a level crossing west of Guwahati on a track adjoining the Rani Reserve Forest, an elephant habitat. NFR now has 46 such devices installed at vulnerable points.

Munindra C. Kalita, a gateman posted at a level crossing close to an elephant corridor, said that the Plan Bee device has been helpful in diverting herds of elephants, especially when trains approach and dashing becomes imminent.

NFR officials said that a mix of Plan Bee and other measures have helped them save 1,014 elephants from 2014 to June 2019.

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