India use drones to protect rhinos from poachers

India use drones to protect rhinos from poachers

Credit: Getty Images

TEL AVIV, ISRAEL: This handout file photo provided on February 16 by the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) shows the Heron, a Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV (Unmanned Air Vehicle) for strategic and tactical missions. With a wingspan of 16.6 meters and a takeoff weight of 1,250 kg, the Heron UAV can reach an altitude of 30,000 feet and has the endurance of up to 50 hours. It is in use by coalition forces in Afghanistan which rely heavily on them for to provide crucial intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance information in real-time to commanders and directly to front line soldiers. IAI announced February 15, 2010 that it is presenting a variety of its advanced technologies and products at this year's DEFEXPO India. (Photo by Israel Aerospace Industries via Getty Images)

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KMOV.com

Posted on April 8, 2013 at 8:53 AM

Updated Monday, Apr 8 at 8:55 AM

GAUHATI, India (AP) -- Wildlife authorities used drones on Monday for aerial surveillance of a sprawling natural game park in northeastern India to protect the one-horned rhinoceros from armed poachers.

   Security officers conducted flights of the unmanned aircraft over the Kaziranga National Park. The drones will be flown at regular intervals to prevent rampant poaching in the park located in the remote Indian state of Assam.

   The drones are equipped with cameras and will be monitored by security guards, who find it difficult to guard the whole 480-square kilometer (185-square mile) reserve.

   "Regular operations of the unmanned aerial vehicles will begin once we get the nod of the Indian defense ministry," said Rokybul Hussain, the state's forest and environment minister.

   The drones will also be useful during the annual monsoon season when large parts of the Kaziranga reserve are inundated by floods from the mighty Brahmaputra River and three other rivers that flow through the game park, park officials said.

   Hussain said the Central Bureau of Investigation, India's equivalent of the FBI, will soon begin investigations into the steep rise in rhino poaching this year.

   Poachers armed with automatic rifles killed 22 rhinos last year, but have killed 16 rhinos already this year.

   Rhino horn is in great demand in China and Southeast Asia where it is believed to have medicinal properties.

   A rhino census conducted in Kaziranga reserve two weeks ago put their number at 2,329, up from 2,290 in 2012.

   In recent weeks, wildlife authorities in Assam have deployed 300 armed guards to protect the rhinos in Kaziranga but they have been no match for organized gangs of poachers who have been managing to strike at the rhinos with increasing regularity.

   "What worries us is the use of automatic weapons like Kalashnikovs by the poachers," said Assam police chief Jayanta Narayan Choudhury.
 

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