By Alok Pandey, Sanjay Chakraborty
Authorities at Assam's Kaziranga National Park have deployed an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle or UAV, a very small aircraft with camera, to safeguard the one-horned rhino from poachers.
This is the first time aerial technology is being applied to protect wildlife.
At first glance, the small UAV may not look all that convincing, but the World Wildlife Fund (WWF), in charge of this new technology, says it's the best thing Kaziranga could have got to combat the menace of rhino poaching.
This UAV is expected to give park authorities a new strategic advantage with an eye in the sky literally, allowing access into previously unreachable areas and a view of illegal activities on the ground.
The vehicle is light enough to be launched by hand.
"I think it's very early to say but I hope that it's a very appreciable tool. It would take a year to assess its effectiveness but it would definitely help the Kaziranga staff to have an extra domination over the area," said Christy Williams, a World Wildlife Fund officer.
A recent census at Kaziranga put the number of rhinos at this park at 2329, marginally up from last year. But poaching figures here are worrying too. Just in the last three months, as many as 16 rhinos have been poached here. Last year, the number was 22.
"It is not only the anti-poaching mechanism that the UAV shall be of help, but would be very handy in times of high floods and animal management in the park," said N K Vasu, Director, Kaziranga National Park.
The UAV will be tested over the next year and based on an evaluation it will be decided whether they can be introduced, first at Kaziranga and then across the country. For now, it's a small beginning, with the prayer that the lives of some of these majestic animals can be saved with this eye in the sky.