The sound of honeybees downloaded from the internet to keep elephants away from railway tracks has created quite a buzz after the novel idea introduced by the Northeast Frontier Railway brought down the number of accidents. The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has this system in place across four of its divisions at select level crossings where elephant zones exist. The idea was implemented in late 2017 and this year only six elephants have died after colliding with a train. In 2013, the number of elephants killed was 19, in 2014 it was 5, in 2015, it was 12, in 2016, it was 9, while in 2017, it was 10.
“We installed this in Rangiya division and once it was successful we have installed it in other locations as well. This was started barely six months back,” said Lokesh Narayan, Additional General Manager, NFR. Unlike in Kenya, where boutique beehives are dangled from fences to keep elephants away, NFR uses an electronic “buzzer” to keep the animals at bay. While elephant-repulsion techniques such as the chili bomb and electric fences have been used earlier, this buzzing sound has been the most effective and cost-efficient.
It is a simple device that amplifies the recorded sound of honeybees downloaded from the internet. The device costs around Rs 2,000 to put together and is audible to an elephant 600 metres away. NFR covers northern West Bengal and parts of eastern Bihar besides the northeastern states. In fact, railways has put in place several measures to ensure elephants do not get killed in collision with trains. It has imposed 49 temporary speed restrictions of 20/25 kmph over a total of 109 km in different stretches.
“We have also created this WhatsApp group with forest officials for real time information sharing. This alerts the loco pilot in real time basis when elephants are spotted,” said Mr Narayan.
This project will be funded by Ministry of Environment and implemented by the Railways.