Aria Bendix is a frequent contributor to The Atlantic, and a former editorial fellow at CityLab. Her work has appeared on Bustle and The Harvard Crimson.
A bit of infrastructure innovation has spared some slow-walking lives.
They may have a tough exterior, but Japan’s turtles are no match for the nation’s railway system.
As bad luck would have it, these beloved reptiles are getting trapped between railway switches while trying to cross the train tracks. Once the switch points begin to move, the turtles are then crushed by the weight. Asahi Shimbun, a Japanese daily newspaper, reports that turtles have caused 13 train disruptions between 2002 and 2014 in Kyoto and Nara.
Though the incidents may be few, they’re easily avoided with a bit of ingenuity. The solution—discovered by the West Japan Railway Company and the Suma Aqualife Park—is to create separate, U-shaped lanes underneath the existing tracks just for turtles. The animals can then cross the tracks without getting stuck or smashed as a train approaches. Already, pathways at two railway stations in the Nara prefecture have saved 10 precious turtle lives.
As an added precaution, the West Japan Railway Company is monitoring the lanes monthly. Any turtles found trapped there are then sent to the Suma aquarium. While the system may not be extensive enough yet to save all of Japan’s turtles from railway peril, at least some of them are now slow, safe, and sound.