Lonely Planet Writer

Why does this Japanese train bark like a dog and snort like a deer?

With rapidly evolving technology and a unique approach to problem solving and innovation, Japan is often cited as an example of a country that thinks outside the box when it comes to infrastructure and planning. And its latest invention is no exception; a special train-mounted speaker that blares animal noises in an effort to protect wildlife.

The new technology has been trialled in an effort to reduce collisions and delays caused by deer on the tracks.
The new technology has been trialled in an effort to reduce collisions and delays caused by deer on the tracks. Image by Hans-johnson

Designed to mimic the barks and yelps of dogs as well as the snorts of deer, the experimental idea was announced recently by a team at the Railway Technical Research Institute as a way of reducing the number of deer/train collisions in the country, an issue that has been on the rise due to growing animal populations and expanding habitats. The technology has been designed to select sections of routes where the sounds should be played, based on collision maps created using a geographical information system that also takes into account vegetation and landscape topography. According to the Tokyo-based institute, tests using the technology have resulted in a 45% reduction in the frequency of deer being observed, and plans are currently being put in place to have the system fully operational by the end of 2018.

Problems have occurred over the last few years due to rising deer populations in regions across Japan.
Problems have occurred over the last few years due to rising deer populations in regions across Japan. Image by Yuri Smityuk

Basing some of the sounds on the alarm call that deer emit to signal danger to each other, the RTRI also included barking noises due to the fact that the animals usually avoid dogs. “The deterrent sound is based on the premise that the first alarm call will alert the deer, while the following howling sound will deter the deer from the track,” the RTRI said in a statement.

Research has shown that deer are attracted to train tracks in order to lick iron, which they need in their diet, with past solutions to draw the animals away including strategically placed salt lick blocks.