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Japanese Aquarium Teams Up With Railroad Company to Save Local Turtles by Building Tunnels Between Train Tracks

A series of dedicated trenches have been installed to lead any terrapin left trapped between rails to safety.

image via (cc) flickr user cranky messiah

Anyone who grew up as cartoon- and comic-book-obsessed as I did knows that turtles (at least those of the Teenage Mutant Ninja variety) mostly get around via skateboard through New York City’s extensive system of sewer pipes. In Japan, however, it seems that some turtles prefer to take the train—and in doing so, have created a hazard for themselves, and for rail commuters as well.

Kobe, Japan, is home to the Suma Aqualife Park, a large beach side aquarium that houses otters, penguins, seals, and dolphins. Because it’s a major tourist spot, the park is accessible by train, and because it’s next to the ocean, the train’s tracks often play host to local turtles as they meander to wherever it is wild turtles go. It’s a dangerous game of chicken for the turtles (who are, of course, simply trying to cross the road). Unable to climb out from between rails, trapped turtles will continue along the tracks until they’re either hit by an oncoming train or crushed between the rail-switching mechanisms. Either way, the result is not only a needlessly killed reptile, but delays for commuters, and sometimes even damage to the trains themselves.

To tackle this tricky terrapin situation, the park reportedly has partnered with the West Japan Railway Company to create a series of turtle-size grooves running alongside and under the tracks themselves, through which the reptiles can safely exit. Seen below, the image on the left is what happens to turtles usually caught on train tracks, while the image on the right shows the animals trekking along their dedicated channel.

Image via Suma Aqualife Park

According to Laughing Squid, the trenches were installed this past April, just before what the Suma Aqualife Park describes as the turtles’ active season of May through September. Since then, the system has been observed saving multiple turtle lives, and has kept the trains running on time.

[Via Rocket24, Laughing Squid]

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