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Sunday, December 20, 2015

Japan Railways Build Turtle Tunnels

I love animals… and depending on what they are, as pets or as food. Never both, though I understand that it can be for some people.

Human beings have been killing, usually cooking, and eating animals since we became uprights. Before that, I am unsure if we were classified as human-proper.

If you are a vegetarian - good for you. Just make sure you get some sun. I'm an omnivore, and eat damn well anything that gets within arm-reach.

Now, despite my predilection for consuming animals, it doesn't mean that I enjoy seeing animals die needlessly. Again, if they are dying to feed me and others of my ilk, that is not 'needlessly'.

I think that there should be preserves (not jam) for animals, where they are safe from human slaughter. I think there should be methods developed that will allow the wild to better survive alongside man and its continual quest for expansion.

As populations continue to grow (except for Japan - but it's doing its best economically) over the past several centuries, mankind has cut down forests, plowed over ponds, rerouted rivers and buried them to flow under our cities via pipes, etc… and until recently, done so without any kind of an environmental assessment.

We've plopped down towns and villages right in the midst of animal migratory tracks…. we've pushed the wild to places it doesn't want or even know how to go to…

Sometimes nature fights back… when deer invade towns, or bears come nosing around.

Sometimes nature loses… when a plethora of frogs crossing a street south of Guelph gets run over by cars (it was awful… all that crunching). I swear, I didn't even see them until I was already atop them at 1AM… oh, the un-humanity.

Anyone who's ever driven along a stretch of highway outside the city has probably seen warning signs for deer or moose crossings. Sometimes, despite the signs, cars hit and get hit by deer, elk, moose, etc.

Well… in Japan… they are apparently trying to do something about the turtles crossing paths with man…

Because there seemed to be an inordinate number of turtles causing havoc or getting crushed by train wheels in the Kobe area (I think), the West Japan Railway Company and the Suma Aqualife Park in Kobe got together to develop and install turtle tunnels.

Yes… should some lucky turtle happen to stumble across the entranceway to one of these tunnels, they will be able to use it to travel under the steel rails.

Yes… check out the photo below… cool huh?
Help me, Gamara!
Look again… isn't that turtle on the far right upside down?

It's just like the worst nightmare in the Chunnel between England and France! Chaos! Anarchy! Soup!

Okay… I understand that this was a staged photograph, but of the three people there (We see two different sets of shoes - plus the photographer), didn't at least one of them know that turtles move on the flat side?

What was the solution? Place one flat-side down and one flat-side up, and see which one is able to better traverse the rails of death turtle subway?!

Look… I think this is a good idea… but really… how does a turtle find it without some brainiac human picking it up and having a 50% chance of placing it right-side up?

Now look at the image at the very top… you can see the turtle (within the red circle of doom), who has maneuvered itself in the wrong direction and now finds itself in an area where it could be crushed by the frog - the place where the track moves when changing lines…

That's pretty bad… What do ya think? Did the photographers place this poor turtle there for the photo opportunity?

Regardless… this brings me to my next point… since these turtles will still require some skill to get into the tunnel (should they be able to find it)… they will need some turtle power to hoist their petard out of that tunnel once they reach the other side.

What's to stop them from accidentally turning left or right and placing themselves on the railway ties et al?

Or… what about a small turtle… could it hoist itself up the exit side?

Is that what happened to the upside-down turtle? Did it try and climb the wall of the tunnel only to fall upon its shell… upside down… with only idiotic gawking humans to save him?

Yeah… a turtle could starve in here.

I've heard that turtles are sort of smart… not let-me-do-your-taxes smart, but smart enough to learn where these turtle tunnels are and to use them.

I'm not sure I believe that… but I'm willing to admit it is a possibility.

Can a turtle find this tunnel without any human intervention? Probably… I would assume it was placed along a known turtle path.

I would assume it could get into the tunnel… and hopefully it could get out the other side if it was strong enough or big enough to do so.

I remain unconvinced that it (turtle tunnel) will save every turtle that enters it, however… I really do hope that no human placed the critter upside down, so I can only assume it had flipped on its side while trying to scale the tunnel walls…

Still… it is a better option than the no-option present before.

And while I am adept here at pointing out the foibles of this turtle tunnel, I am not really offering a solution.

If it didn't undermine the structural integrity of the rails, perhaps flipping the turtle tunnel upside down like the turtle pictured above, so that it could travel on a dirt path, have overhead protection from the stone ballast alongside the rails, and not have any obstacle to the entrance or exit of the tunnel.

Now… was the ceiling kept open because we were afraid animals might utilize it as a cave/den/warren, etc.? It would be troublesome if the tunnel became the home of ferrets or snakes or killer bunnies.

So… does anyone have a better solution to help troubled traveling train turtles?

Andrew Joseph
PS: The one and only time I had turtle soup was in Japan. I bought a can at the U.S. Army store - I think I was in Tokyo… took it back to my place in Ohtawara-shi, Tochigi-ken, Japan, cracked it open, heated it up and found two nickel (coin)-sized, nickel-thick pieces of turtle in this flavorful broth.
It was chewy, and a complete disappointment considering it cost be the equivalent price of $5… and this was 24 years ago.
I must have bought the mock turtle soup.
PPS: Original story and photos found at
It's hardly a story. It merely hints at one. And yet, it gets 135,000 effing hits.WTF, people?!
It tells me that people want to be entertained, but not enough where they learn anything.Or perhaps they were all fooled by the sappiness of the headline - ooooh, I love turtles! You know what I mean.
Seriously? More information! What type of effing turtles are in the photo… there's at least two different ones… did no one notice the upside down turtle? Did they only take two photographs? Who funded the tunnel? What percentage? Is there a turtle toll? How many turtles die each year along that stretch of track? Why are the turtles crossing the road? There's no chicken there! What is the tunnel made off? Why is there a barrier at the turtle entrance/exits? How often does the turtle cross the road?
Instead… the bored panda article author was too bored (or stoned on eucalyptus leaves) to provide a real story, leaving me to create one in my own head. That's dangerous. But still… those questions above remain unanswered.

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