Elephant warning systems in two highways soon

Published - July 03, 2022 08:21 pm IST - THIRUVANANTHAPURAM

Soon, the motorists who cut through the forested areas on Chalakudy-Anamala Road and Munnar-Bodinayakanur stretch will have the facility to get early warning of elephants on their path.

The authorities have decided to set up artificial intelligence (AI) based cameras around 47 locations along the Munnar-Bodinayakanur stretch and five elephant warning alarm systems that alert the motorists and local people in advance of any danger, on the Chalakudy Anamala Road, as part of reducing accidents and man-animal conflicts.

The project is an extension of the AI elephant detection programme piloted on an experimental basis to track the movement of wild elephants at Thumboormuzhy, near Athirapilly, jointly by the Forest department and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP). Dr. M. Rameshan, project officer, Conservation and Ecology, UNDP, said the feedback from the pilot project was encouraging and based on experience, mapping was done in these two stretches to identify the areas where elephants cross on a daily basis.

In fact, there were around 10-14 such locations on Chalakudy Anamala Road where, in the next phase, five such elephant warning alarm systems would be set up, while on Munnar- Bodinayakanur road, 47 such devices would be installed apart from constructing an underpass and overpass in two areas—Thondimala and Moolathara.

The National Highway Authority of India (NHAI) has accepted the proposal and sanctioned ₹6.9 crore for this project, while the device would be set up on Chalakudy-Anamala road using the own fund of the Forest department, said Mr. Rameshan.

At present, around 26 elephants were monitored daily by elephant trackers on the Munnar stretch and once the technology-based elephant warning alarm systems were installed and connected to the centrally monitoring system attached to the Chinnakanal forest station, the manual monitoring of elephants could be digitalised and alerts could be passed to rapid response teams (RRT) for follow up actions, said officials.

E.S. Praseetha, beat forest officer, Chalakudy, who takes care of the AI elephant detection device at Thumboormuzhi, said the device could detect the images of the elephants even during the night hours and warn the drivers through the displays, apart from issuing SMS alerts to locals nearby. Along with introducing new technology-based elephant tracking systems, there was also a need to sensitise road users about early warning alarm systems, said Ms. Praseetha.

The software attached to the AI cameras detected animals based on their shape and sounds an alarm apart from displaying the alert on LED boards put on the road. The project was expected to be completed by August end, said forest department sources.

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