At a time when we have managed to increase forest cover and geographical area through buffer zones, saving green cover, especially in Reserve Forests and Tiger Reserves is not an easy task for foresters.
Forest staff are frontline warriors in conservation. From filing challans of offences to wildlife rescue and anti-poaching operations, their hands are always full. In fact, over the years, their role has only expanded. Along with guarding the forests, they are also involved in ecotourism, joint forest management, land regeneration, conserving biodiversity and urban greening.
To ensure they can continue with their good work, foresters must be aided with modern-day technological tools. Today many States are trying out innovative solutions through technology to save forests. The Nagarahole Tiger Reserve has constituted a Special Strike Force equipped with technology including drones to deal with forest crimes and also accidents like forest fires.
The Special Strike Force has been constituted under Deputy Range Forest Officers Arpitha, Madhu Prasad and Nandan. They will set up teams in various ranges of Nagarahole in the coming days to protect the green cover that extends up to 847.981 sq. km (core — 643.392 sq. km and buffer — 204.589 sq. km).
The Special Strike Force is equipped with technologies like camera trapping and they will use various apps to save forests and is trained to use drones to access the inaccessible areas of the Tiger Reserve. To aid in the protection of flora and fauna, Nagarahole already has a Special Tiger Protection Force (STPF) and Rapid Response Team (RRT).
These forces, however, are not trained in technology. Moreover, the RRT will function under Special Strike Force which has expertise in detecting and destroying snares and can act in any emergencies be it rescue, animal attacks or forest fires. It can even release the wild animals from snares in case they are set up by poachers.
The team, with immense technical knowledge, can easily operate drones that will come in handy during forest fires. Through drones, the exact location of the forest fire can be pinpointed so that mitigating measures can be taken immediately.
Nagarahole Tiger Reserve Director D. Mahesh Kumar told Star of Mysore that the Special Strike Force will function as all-in-one teams that will effectively and speedily use technology to save flora and fauna. The team will immediately act in case of emergencies and they are specially trained for the purpose. The constitution of such teams would boost the confidence of the forest protection force, he added.
Trained to use ‘M-STrIPES’ app
The Special Strike Force has been trained to use the ‘M-STrIPES’ (Monitoring System for Tigers: Intensive Protection and Ecological Status) app designed by National Tiger Conservation Authority (NTCA) to ensure effective patrolling, assess ecological status and mitigate human-wildlife conflict.
It uses Global Positioning System (GPS), General Packet Radio Services (GPRS) and remote sensing to collect information from the field, create a database using modern Information Technology (IT) based tools, analyses the information using tools to provide inferences that allow tiger reserve managers to better manage their wildlife resources.
The patrol module of the app maintains a spatial database of patrol track logs, crime scenes with geo-tagged photographs and important observations made by field staff while on different types of patrol duties. The ecological module of the app enables staff to use a set of standardised protocols for ecological monitoring. The conflict module addresses data recording, achieving, geo-tagging and spatial analysis of human-wildlife conflict details.
Equipment from GIZ Germany
Germany-based GIZ that forges partnership against poaching and illegal wildlife trade in Africa and Asia has provided sets of equipment to the Special Strike Force like setting up temporary tents, cameras, equipment to capture injured animals, cages and high-definition torches, night-vision binoculars and multi-tasking drones with powerful cameras for specialised tasks.
The GIZ has supplied over 70 pieces of equipment with modern technologies to the Special Strike Force to deal with emergencies including rescuing wild animals, rescuing humans from animal attacks, collecting technical data like pug marks of big cats, hair and canine marks samples, etc. They are equipped to catch poachers. Speaking to Star of Mysore, GIZ officials said that three sets of equipment have come to Kodagu and among them, one has been handed over to the Special Strike Force for training purposes. At present, the special force members are undergoing training from GIZ and Karthik Krishnan, who is the lead trainer, has immense experience in dealing with wildlife in India.