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Hawk eye on Kaziranga to check poaching


GUWAHATI, Feb 26: Drones are likely to fly over Kaziranga tiol Park during the coming monsoon season to eble the authorities to closely monitor movements of poachers inside the park and prevent poaching.

Sources told The Sentinel that even though Union ministries of Home, Defence and Civil Aviation have already given clearances to use drones in Kaziranga, Dispur is planning to operate drones during the onset of monsoon. Poaching in the park, which is famous for having India’s largest population of one-horned rhinos, sees a sharp rise during monsoons as poachers take advantage of floods inside Kaziranga.

“Once drones are used, the park authority can monitor the movement of poachers even during floods. Accordingly, the authority can then deploy forest guards and personnel at areas inside the park targeted by poachers,” the source said.

The KNP authority had initially planned to use drones in 2013 and a few trials were conducted. But the Defence ministry did not give necessary clearance to use such gadgets for security reasons. The park has the highest tiger density and the highest rhino population in the country.

An unmanned aerial vehicle or a drone is an aircraft increasingly employed to monitor and protect wildlife across the globe. Prices of drones differ depending on the technology used.

Sources said as per plan, the tiol Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) and Dehradun- based Wildlife Institute of India, entrusted to execute the project to use drones in Kaziranga, would soon give a pilot demonstration and impart training to local staff of the park as how to effectively operate the gadget.

Assam Forest and Wildlife minister Pramila Rani Brahma who has been taking several proactive measures to prevent rhino poaching has shown keen interest on use of drones and is corresponding with her Central counterpart. A Forest department official said the move, if successful, would benefit 13 tiger reserves, including Kaziranga and mdapha, in the Northeast.

Increasing rhino poaching, especially in Kaziranga, has snowballed into a major issue in Assam. The BJP last year made it an election issue during the State’s assembly polls and the party’s manifesto promised to bring an end to rhino poaching. But incidence of rhino poaching has not come down even after the BJP came to power in May last year and more rhinos fell to poachers’ bullets in 2016.

Sources said the move to use drones in Kaziranga is also a reflection of policies of the draft tiol Wildlife Action Plan 2017-31. The Action Plan calls for the use of modern technology for patrolling, crime data magement, intelligence gathering and surveillance to prevent wildlife crime. As technologies such as Internet and mobiles are being used effectively by crime syndicates, wildlife crime investigators also need to be equipped with matching skills, fit to carry out technology-based investigation leading to busting of networks behind these crimes, the source said.