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Use UAV to End Poaching in Kaziranga Park

                                                                                  The New Indian Express, Chennai, 12th April, 2013

The deployment of an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) at the Kaziranga National Park in Assam is a step in the right direction. It is capable of keeping an eye on the one-horned rhinoceros, found only in this park. How effective the UAV is, will be known only after a year or so but it certainly provides hope to all animal lovers. The UAV has a  powerful camera, which can track the animals even in the ordinarily inaccessible areas of the park. If there is an unusual movement of animals on account of an attempt of poaching or a natural occurrence, it will send signals to the forest guards to enable them to swoop down on the poachers or take remedial action.

Poaching has become rampant in the park with 16 rhinos falling prey to it during the last three months alone. The poachers are now better equipped and there is big money in poaching. The rhino horn is in great demand in the international market, because of its supposedly aphrodisiac and other medicinal values. The poachers may be local people but their masters are in countries like Bangladesh, Myanmar and China. True, the number of rhinos at Kaziranga stood at 2,329 at the last count, recording a nominal increase, but poaching can push them to extinction.

Much will depend on how the park authorities make use of the UAV. Kaziranga is also home to the Asiatic elephants which, too, are targeted because of the huge illegal ivory trade. The floods in the Brahmaputra also periodically take a heavy toll of the animals. Many of them are caught unawares when the flood water enters the park. The UAV can be a very helpful tool in ascertaining the flood position and driving the animals to safer areas. The usefulness of the UAV depends on the alertness and resourcefulness of the forest authorities. Once the experiment proves successful, it can be extended to other national parks where, too, poaching is a menace.