“Innovative AI-Enabled System Launched in Tamil Nadu to Safeguard Elephants on Railway Tracks”

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The Tamil Nadu Forest department launched its ambitious Artificial Intelligence & Machine Learning enabled surveillance system to prevent death of elephants on railway tracks on 9th february2024. The project was launched-by the Minister for Forest in the presence of Additional Chief Secretary to the Government, Department of Environment, Climate Change and Forest Department. Principal Chief Conservator of Forests & Chief Wildlife Warden on 09.02.2024 at Coimbatore District. This Notification was published on 09.02.2024.

In recent years, the Coimbatore Forest Division has faced a significant rise in Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC). Elephants passing through this region, migrating seasonally from Nilgiris and Sathyamangalam to Kerala, often encounter conflicts with humans due to various factors such as disturbances in migration corridors, increased developmental activities, changes in land use patterns, and anthropogenic pressure. One of the major conflict areas is the railway tracks in the Madukkarai range, where unfortunate accidents involving elephants and trains have occurred. Despite efforts by forest and railway personnel, including the installation of underpasses and other measures, incidents couldn’t be drastically reduced, leading to the loss of eleven elephants since 2008. To address this issue, the Government, in consultation with experts, has decided to implement an Artificial Intelligence (AI) enabled autonomous surveillance system. This system aims to monitor elephant movements along a vulnerable stretch of 7 km of railway track, identified as the most critical area, with a budget of 724 lakhs. The AI-based surveillance system comprises 12 high towers equipped with thermal and normal cameras strategically placed along the track in the Bolampatti Block – I Forests. These towers, spaced 500 meters apart, cover important elephant crossing areas, providing 150 meters coverage on either side of the track for early detection of animal movement. Data collected by the system is automatically transferred to a control room where forest department staff, along with a technical team, monitor animal movements in real-time. They alert railway locomotive pilots through calls, SMS, alerts, hooters, and digital displays placed on the tracks, enabling proactive measures to avoid accidents. This AI-generated data not only helps prevent accidents but also provides valuable insights into elephant movement and behavior, enabling future decision-making and further studies on elephant profiling, morphology, and behavior. The collaboration between the forest department and railway officials ensures effective coordination in preventing human-elephant conflicts and safeguarding both wildlife and human lives.

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