Japan has built special tunnels to save turtles from train deaths

March 5, 2024

Turtles walking in shallow trenches under the tracks at JR West's facility in Kobe, western Japan.

Railway engineers in Japan have created a scheme to prevent wandering turtles being killed by trains while crossing the country’s rail tracks.

Working in conjunction with the Suma Aqualife aquarium in Kobe, West Japan Railways installed shallow tunnels allowing the reptiles to walk safely beneath the tracks.

The five U-Shaped concrete ditches, completed in November, were built at two stations in Nara Prefecture close to hazardous switch points where turtles often become trapped, The Japan Times reports

Located only a short distance from both the aquarium and the ocean, the tracks receive large numbers of reptilian visitors during May and September.

Turtle trapped between rail switches Kobe Digital/ YouTubeTurtle trapped between rail switches Kobe Digital/ YouTube (Kobe Digital/YouTube)

“The turtles are basically just going about their daily business and have to cross the lines to get to a pond,” a railway spokesman told AFP.

“When the point blades move, unfortunately they get squashed between them and die.”

The tunnels also aim to lessen rail delays after turtles were responsible for 13 disruptions to train services between 2002 and 2014 by falling into spaces between rail switches and getting squashed, according to West Japan Railway officials.

“They can cause long delays to operations so we consulted with a turtle specialist to find the best way to help them,” the spokesman added.

Railway staff now check the ditches regularly for rogue reptiles and any found are removed and sent to the aquarium.

Since the tunnels were completed last month 10 turtles have been saved, according to officials.