It was noted that in the Coimbatore forest division, the elephants had strayed out about 9,000 times between 2021 and 2023

Tamil Nadu Introduces AI-Powered System to Mitigate Elephant Fatalities near Coimbatore Railway Tracks

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The Tamil Nadu Forest Department unveiled an innovative Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning-driven surveillance system aimed at curbing elephant casualties along railway tracks. Forest Minister M Mathiventhan inaugurated the system in Madukkarai, Coimbatore district, on Friday.

According to a statement released by the state government, the Coimbatore forest division has witnessed a notable surge in Human-Elephant Conflict (HEC) in recent years. Factors such as increased elephant populations, disturbances in migration routes, heightened development activities along these paths, alterations in land use practices, and human encroachment have contributed to the escalating instances of conflict in the region.

Elephants in the Coimbatore forest division are seasonal migrants, traversing from Nilgiris and Sathyamangalam to forested areas in Kerala. Specific locales such as Walayar, Bolampatty, Anaikatti reserve forest, Gopinari reserve forest, and others serve as preferred habitats for these migratory elephants during the rainy season.

Over the period from 2021 to 2023, elephants from the Coimbatore forest division have strayed out approximately 9,000 times, exacerbating the potential for human-elephant clashes.

A significant conflict hotspot identified within the Coimbatore division is the railway track in the Madukkarai range, where unfortunate collisions between elephants and trains have resulted in the deaths of 11 elephants, including young calves and juveniles, since 2008.

Despite earnest efforts by officials, the incidents persisted, prompting the proposal and subsequent implementation of an AI-driven autonomous surveillance system to monitor elephant movement and mitigate accidents. The government allocated Rs 7.24 crore for the installation of this system along a seven-kilometer stretch of railway track deemed as the most vulnerable.

The AI-based surveillance system comprises 12 high towers equipped with both thermal and normal cameras strategically positioned along the Bolampatti Block-I forest track. Spaced 500 meters apart, these towers offer coverage of 150 meters on either side of the track for early detection of elephant movement.

Data collected by the system is transmitted in real-time to a control room, where frontline forest personnel, alongside technical experts, monitor animal activity. They promptly relay information to train operators via calls, SMS alerts, and digital displays installed near the tracks.

Additional Chief Secretary Supriya Sahu shared insights on the project, highlighting the division of the alert mechanism into three zones – Red, Orange, and Yellow – based on the projected proximity of elephants to the track, with ‘Red’ indicating the closest proximity. Each zone triggers a different level of alert to ensure timely response and prevention of accidents.

The integration of AI technology not only aids in accident prevention but also provides valuable data on elephant behavior and movement patterns, facilitating informed decision-making for future wildlife management strategies. The initiative underscores Tamil Nadu’s commitment to wildlife conservation and mitigating human-wildlife conflicts.

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