Drones, thermal-imaging cameras to monitor big cats in Rajasthan soon

The Indian state of Rajasthan is setting up an advanced surveillance mechanism to ensure effective monitoring and conservation of endangered wild animals, especially tigers and leopards.

The state information technology (IT) department aims to install a hi-tech mechanism comprising drones, thermal-imaging cameras, high-resolution optical and dome cameras, data centers and radio sets by March 2018. It has requested Rs 50 crore for floating tenders and commissioning wildlife surveillance (WS) as well as anti-poaching systems (APS). The amount would also cover operational and maintenance costs for a period of five years.

A senior IT official told Hindustan Times on the condition of anonymity that the WS and APS project has been planned to ensure conservation of tigers and other wild animals; enhance the efficiency of forest officials; identify areas prone to poaching and other wildlife crimes; check infiltration, poaching and illegal mining; and provide fact-based information for effective decision-making. “It will be implemented in critical areas of Ranthambore Tiger Reserve, Sariska Tiger Reserve, Mukundra Hill Tiger Reserve, Jawaibag Leopard Conservation Reserve and Jhalana Natural Park,” he added.

A number of wildlife offences – including poaching, human encroachment and smuggling of contraband items – have been reported from Rajasthan in the last decade. Many incidents of the kind have also gone unreported due to a rise in poachers and lack of resources to monitor large forested areas.

“Wild animals are active at night, when visibility is poor. In such circumstances, the use of thermal-imaging cameras will help. Forty-meter-high static towers, equipped with a mix of thermal, optical and dome cameras, will be installed. The feed will be recorded at a modular containerised control room, and then sent to the data centre at the headquarters. Drones will be used as and when needed, in case of fire and natural calamities,” the official said.

While admitting that similar systems exist in other wildlife reserves such as Kaziranga National Park and Jim Corbett National Park, he claimed they haven’t been implemented at such an extensive scale.

The local control room will be linked to every camera under the new wildlife conservation mechanism, so wildlife movement patterns can be evaluated. “Over 1,100 critical areas at the five protected sites have been identified, and they will be covered under the WS and APS system. It is on this basis that we have decided to install around 12 towers at Ranthambore (with 283 critical areas), 16 at Sariska (420 critical areas), 16 at Mukundra (417 critical areas), four at Jawaibag (20 critical areas), and six at Jhalana (33 critical areas),” the official said.

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