The Southern Railway’s first underpass for wild elephants on the Ettimadai – Walayar section of the rail line linking Tamil Nadu and Kerala, near Coimbatore, had its first user in the wee hours of Wednesday. A lone tusker passed through the underpass to cross the track at 3.04 a.m. and walked towards the forest.
A camera fixed by the Forest Department captured the elephant using the underpass. While crossing, the tusker also left a pile of dung which, according to the Forest Department, will help other elephants identify this as a safe passage for them.
The elephant underpass was constructed on the ‘B’ line [of the ‘A’ and ‘B’ twin single line] between Ettimadai and Walayar, that passes through Solakkarai reserve forest of Madukkarai range in the Coimbatore Forest Division. The work started on December 21, 2022, and it was commissioned on June 10.
After commissioning the project, the Tamil Nadu Forest Department placed two surveillance cameras and a camera trap at the underpass to check the movement of animals. One of the surveillance cameras captured a male elephant exiting the underpass in the direction of the forest early on Wednesday morning. It emerged from the forest patch sandwiched between the ‘A’ and ‘B’ lines.
S. Ramasubramanian, Conservator of Forests and Field Director of the Anamalai Tiger Reserve, said the footage of a tusker using the underpass was promising. “Elephants are known for sticking to their regular path. Once they get accustomed to using the underpass, they may not walk along the track,” he said. The Railways had sanctioned ₹7.49 crore for the construction of two elephant underpasses on the ‘B’ line. With the first underpass commissioned, it will start the construction of a second one soon.
Besides this, the Tamil Nadu Forest Department is implementing an artificial intelligence (AI)-based monitoring system to avoid elephants getting hit by moving trains. According to the Department, 11 elephants died in six train collisions on the two railway lines from 2008 to 2022.
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