The Northeast Frontier Railway (NFR) has installed devices along railway tracks which slice through elephant habitats to emit the buzz of honeybees - a sound that the jumbos are mortally scared of - to keep the pachyderms off railway tracks in the northern part of Bengal.
A total of 168 kilometres of railway lines cut through national parks, wildlife sanctuaries and reserve forests that are home to hundreds of wild elephants. These tracks have turned into killer zones for elephants with speeding trains mowing down more than 70 jumbos over the past 12 years.
The devices have been installed near manned road - rail crossings along two main elephant corridors (elephants always travel along specific routes that are termed elephant corridors; there are 27 such corridors in North Bengal) near Rajabhatkhawa forest in Alipurduar district and Chalsa forest in Jalpaiguri district. Once the gateman sees an approaching herd of elephants while a train is due to pass through, he switches on the device that emits a high-pitched sound of buzz of honeybees. The elephants are thus scared away. Each device costs Rs 2000 and has been successfully tested by the NFR in Assam.
The NFR has faced a lot of criticism for not adhering to guidelines - running trains at low speeds on tracks that pass through elephant habitats, constructing underpasses for safe movement of the elephants and steep slopes on both sides of rail lines that the pachyderms would not be able to climb easily - to save elephants.
The last recorded elephant death was on 4 February this year when a speeding train passing through Chapramari Wildlife Sanctuary mowed down the adult female pachyderm while she was crossing the tracks.
But foresters say elephants, being very intelligent animals, will eventually realise that they are being fooled by a device!
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