The state forest department may reject the idea of using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) to monitor tiger populations at the Panna tiger reserve as the device does not seem to be serving the requirement of the department.
The forest department was considering using UAV for two main purposes: one to monitor dispersing tigers through signals emanated from radio collars fitted on them and second, to strengthen protection measures by providing photographs of landscapes within the park.
The defence ministry has already given permission for flying UAVs at Panna.
During a presentation on the working of the UAV by an Indian company on Thursday, feedback from forest department officials suggested that the UAV would not serve the purpose of the department in so far as using it for protection measures in concerned.
“Canopy cover in forests would prevent photographs that show what is happening on the ground from being taken. We would have wanted to know through photographs the presence of poachers or incursions by groups, which seem difficult in such forest cover,” a senior forest department official said.
The company has, however, been asked to organise a field trial to ascertain the effectiveness and quality of pictures taken by thermal cameras.
Forest department officials said the UAV’s pictures would be useful in open areas but not so useful in forested areas.
UAVs are used in the US and Africa to monitor wildlife populations.
Sources said the state forest department had decided to use UAVs to monitor dispersing tigers at Panna as the increase in tiger population was making it difficult for staff to monitor them physically.
Each radio collared tiger has a team of three to five people following it 24x7 to keep track of its movements.
The physical monitoring entails substantial costs too.
With UAVs, the forest department planned to send out two sorties a day, sweeping the entire park area.
The park management would then have a report on the location of the radio collared tigers.
Presently there are 16 tigers at Panna and half of them are radio collared.
As the sub adult specimens and the cubs grow older, they would start dispersing out of the park making monitoring even more tougher.