Barking Trains in Tokyo: Technology and Innovation to Assist Wildlife Biodiversity
Deer, specifically the Cervus nipon, are widespread throughout Japan. Often, these animals are a source of train incidents as they are drawn to the railway tracks supposedly due to their attraction to the iron fillings they lick off their surface and ingest in their systems.
In 2016 alone, trains delayed by 30 minutes or more for a grand total of 613 times due to deer incidents, a high number despite Japan’s international fame of punctuality and efficiency. This amount rose by a significant 185 occasions since the previous year, i.e. over a 20 percent increase.
Tackling the issue of locomotive-deer collisions, barking trains developed by Tokyo engineers may represent the next technological breakthrough within the world of wildlife preservation and public transportation in Japan. Albeit somewhat odd, dogs commonly bark in attempts to warn the fellow deer to steer clear off the train tracks when trains approach, a clear example of animal interspecies camaraderie.
Similarly to this natural phenomenon, mimicking such warning signs, Japanese scientists have come up with the idea to record the barks and equip trains with the capacity to play them so as to decrease deer casualties as well as train delays, namely to work in favour of both local wildlife and citizens.
The scientific team behind this innovation, the Railway Technical Research Institute (RTRI), has developed this unusual technique not only as a means of avoiding deer collision but also so as to increase train timing efficiency.
In interview with the Asahi newspaper, an official from the institute stated, “if the new device works, that will eliminate the need for anti-trespassing facilities at many locations”.
In the past, Railway companies had tried to prevent collisions numerous times by constructing physical barriers around the tracks. This effort proved to be in vain as deer simply bypassed these barriers, jumping over or finding gaps in between from which to sneak in.
A second unsuccessful measure of prevention, first tested in 2003, was the spreading of lion dung across the tracks to cover the iron’s scent. However, scientists behind this scheme soon observed its inefficiency as the smell was washed off at each occasion of precipitation by the flowing water.
According to BBC, the RTRI has successfully reduced the number of deer surrounding train tracks by 40 percent thanks to this new concept. Such extensive success represents a breakthrough for the general issue of locomotive-deer collisions throughout the country.
Moreover, in order to avoid complaints regarding the projection of such large sounds, the Japanese developers have scrutinously studied the least and most populated areas where the trains cross so as to avoid disturbing local residents. This process is predicted to involve continued recording and mapping of areas particularly prone to deer-licking, enabling train drivers to only activate sound projections when necessary.
3 seconds of a deer’s snorting followed by 20 seconds of a dog’s barking were recorded, re-emitted by these innovative trains as warning signals. Results reported indicate a deer siting of only 7.5 per 100 km; a drastic 45 percent less compared to those reported by the same trains without sound projection.