Tamil Nadu: AI-based system launched to prevent elephant deaths on railway tracks in Coimbatore

The Tamil Nadu forest department on Friday launched its ambitious Artificial Intelligence (AI) and Machine Learning-enabled surveillance system to prevent the death of elephants on railway tracks.

In Coimbatore Forest Division, it is noted that elephants have strayed about 9,000 times in the past three years, from 2021 to 2023. One of the major conflict issues in the Coimbatore division was an elephant crossing the railway track in the Madukkarai range and train-hit accidents.

Two railway tracks pass through Solakarai beat and Bolampatti Block–I Reserved Forests in Madukkarai range. This forest area shares its boundary with Kerala forests along the river Walayar and is regularly visited by elephants.

So far, 11 elephants have died due to collisions with trains since 2008, including young calves and juveniles. While railway staff and forest officials made efforts, such incidents did not witness a reduction.

To find an effective solution, the state government, after consulting with experts, decided to implement an AI-enabled autonomous surveillance system to monitor the movement of elephants round the clock to effectively track the elephants along the railway tracks and avoid accidents.

After conducting a field investigation, the most vulnerable stretch of seven kilometres of railway track was identified for implementing the project. The government had sanctioned an amount of Rs 7.24 crore for the installation of the AI-enabled system.


This system has 12 high towers fitted with both thermal and normal cameras, installed at strategic locations along the track in the Bolampatti Block–I forests, 500 metres apart from each other, covering all the important elephant crossing areas. It also gives 150 metres of coverage on either side of the track for early detection of animal movement.

The sensed data is automatically transferred to the control room that processes the data collected from the field on a real-time basis. The front-line staff of the forest department along with the technical team are available in the control room on a shift basis to monitor the animal movement and inform the loco pilots of Railways through calls, SMS and alerts.

In addition, hooters and digital display alerts have also been placed on the tracks for the loco pilots to see and act well in advance in the event of any animal presence along the two tracks.

The forest department and the railway officials work in sync to prevent accidents based on information generated by AI. This system-generated data not only prevents accidents, it gives valuable data on the elephant movement, elephant behaviour, profiling of individual elephants and further morphological and behavioural studies for future decision-making.

Published By:

Prateek Chakraborty

Published On:

Feb 10, 2024

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