Unsustainable development and encroachments inside the forests of India are killing endangered Asian elephants at an alarming rate. Every year 18-20 elephants die in train collisions alone. Speed restrictions are not enforced even inside protected areas, while many accidents occur outside too. An early warning pilot system has averted almost 500 elephant deaths in the year 2023 alone. It cautions train drivers of elephant presence, giving them enough time to apply brakes and prevent tragedies!
West Bengal (WB), with nearly 100 million people is the 4th most densely populated state in India and has the 2nd largest number of elephant deaths on train tracks. In August 2023 a pregnant elephant was killed on the track that cuts through WB's Buxa Tiger Reserve. In another tragedy in 2010, seven elephants were crushed by speeding train. Reckless encroachment, including train tracks, highways and other infrastructure cut through their migratory routes, killing scores of elephants every year.
Our Phase-1 implementation of EleSense technology in 2023, averted exactly 489 elephant deaths between January and November. EleSense is a state-of-the-art early warning sensor system that alerts train drivers of elephant presence, leaving enough time for the speeding train to apply the brakes and stop. When an elephant is within 750 meters of the sensor, the alarm is triggered, cautioning the railway authorities, while warning the elephants to prevent them from getting closer to the tracks.
This sensor-based early warning system is designed with siren, light and GPS modules by indigenous tech experts familiar with the landscape. The system is resistant to damage from the elements and wildlife, thus cutting down maintenance costs, and protecting the capital investment. It is also safe for elephants. VFAE partners with Nature Mates, SNAP Foundation, and WB government agencies to implement. Funds raised will help install additional EleSense tech near train tracks that elephants cross.