“There has been a fall in poaching and illegal entry after the drone was deployed (a few months ago). People are aware that they are being watched,” said Reddy,

The big cats of the Pench tiger project in Vidarbha as well as the flora and fauna there can now rely on the eyes in the sky to protect them from poachers and tree-fellers. The officials have pressed into service a drone which will keep an eye out for intruders, be it to hunt animals or fish in the reservoir there. Located near Nagpur, the Pench tiger reserve is the first in Maharashtra and the second in India after the Panna tiger reserve in Madhya Pradesh to procure an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for conservation purposes. <!– Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>Buoyed by the success, officials are planning to procure and deploy more drones to effectively cover reserve’s 257.26 sq.km core area and a 483.96 sq.km buffer zone, habitating 21 tigers, 33 species of mammals, over 160 species of birds, reptiles, fishes and amphibians. “We are using the drone to get an aerial view of the park,” MS Reddy, chief conservator of forests and field director of the Pench project told dna. “It provides us an aerial view of the park, its water bodies and helps map the area,” he said, adding the drone was being used for aerial reconnaissance, protection, photography and documentation. The drone can stream live photos and videos though it is not equipped with a night-vision camera as of now.”There has been a fall in poaching and illegal entry after the drone was deployed (a few months ago). People are aware that they are being watched,” said Reddy, adding the “idea itself acts as a deterrent”. “We are also using it to watch if fishing is taking place in the Pench reservoir, in violation of the ban. It helps us devise a strategy after estimating the strength of the fishermen,” he said. The drone in use costs around Rs 1.10 lakh and plans are afoot to buy bigger ones. “We are going in for bigger ones, as the one in use has a flight time of just 15 minutes. We are looking for a UAV which has a flight time of over one hour,” he added. Around 20 forest personnel have been trained in using the drone. “Technology is a great help in conservation,” he noted, adding the drone could observe intruders from a distance and could stay safe unlike camera traps which could be easily accessed and damaged. Located at a distance of around 70km from Nagpur, the Pench tiger reserve was declared as India’s 25th tiger reserve in 1999. It also has an eco-tourism area. The reserve is an important corridor between the forest areas of Madhya Pradesh (Pench Tiger Reserve) and Nagzira-Navegaon and Tadoba- Andhari Tiger Reserves in Maharashtra. African safariPlayers and coaches of the South African cricket team visited Pench on Saturday for a tiger safari. The team could get a glimpse of the big cat, a leopard and other birds and animals, said Reddy. Senior forest department officials and experts accompanied them.

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Drone eyes in sky keeping intruders off Vidarbha’s Pench tiger reserve