Japanese Rail Workers Build Adorable Track Underpasses for Turtles

Not only do these tunnels save turtles' lives, they prevent train disruptions.

Turtles near Japan’s Nara Prefecture now have safe passage across the local train tracks. Despite being small and adorable, the little turtles sometimes get caught in the switch rail mechanism—which switches the direction of the tracks—and they get crushed. When that happens, not only are the turtles killed but the rails don’t fully switch and have to be serviced before trains can safely pass. According to The Japan Times, this has happened 13 times between 2002 and 2014. So to save turtles’ lives, and prevent further disruption, Japanese railway workers built the turtles their own tunnels under the tracks.

These U-shaped concrete tunnels sit beneath the railroad tracks near the switch points, giving the turtles a much easier means of crossing. Railway workers will check the tunnels for turtles during their periodic track inspections and will relocate any stuck turtles to an aquarium. The five concrete tunnels were built only a month ago, at two stations in the Nara Prefecture, and so far have saved ten turtle lives.

“The system prevents turtles from getting into accidents and avoids causing trouble for our passengers. We hope to continue using it,” said a West Japan Railway spokesperson.

In the video below, you can see the shelled reptiles drop into their subterranean turtle crossing (although, one falls on its back, which might be an issue with the tunnel ingress) and it seems to give them plenty of room to cross underneath the tracks. Although, one end of the tunnel seems to be closed off, so it’s unclear if these channels are designed to keep the turtles in there until railway workers can get them, of if they’re designed to guide the turtles in a specific direction. Either way, this innovation will prevent countless turtles from being squashed and keep train schedules on time.

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