By Mayuri Phadnis
An anti-poaching device, designed by engineers and students from Pune, aims to save tigers from traps and poison; it caught the interest of the forest department
As hunting pushes the world's biggest cat to the brink of extinction, a group of students and engineers has come together to halt its calamitous decline. They have designed an independent anti-poaching device (IAPD), which is a smart collar, to help keep an eye on poacher's snare. While the device is yet to be tested on tigers, the forest department has agreed to facilitate the experiment at Melghat where tiger poaching is rampant.
The device, which took around eight months to design, aims at saving the tiger from primarily three threats — metal trap, poisoning through carbofuran, one of the most toxic pesticides, and live wires. Touted to be relatively invisible, the device, which has metal and live wire detectors, emits sound waves that passes through the ears of the tiger and thereby driving it away from potential danger. The frequency of sound waves increases if the tiger walks towards the trap.
On Friday, the group met Sunil Limaye, chief conservator of forests, Pune division, to discuss its invention and how it can be used to reduce the severity of the threat.
"We have listed the problems faced by the forest department, and with this device,we have tried to povide a solution. We have used lighter silicon rubber, which can be camouflaged as the tiger's coat, so that the presence of any foreign object on the animal's body is not obvious. The device would also not cause any discomfort to the animal," said Shantanu Naidu, an engineer who along with engineering student Varun Natu, from NBN Sinhagad School of Engineering (NBNSSOE), worked on the circuitry and other technical aspects of IAPD.
While Mrinmayi Dalvi, a BA student from Fergusson College, researched on the physical characteristics and behaviour of the tiger, Anay Kshirsagar, a student from Symbiosis Institute of Design, designed the look of IAPD. The group works under the banner of technical innovations for wildlife conservation (TWIC).
Commending the group's effort, Limaye said, "IAPD could be effective after its practicality and technological competence is tested by Wildlife Institute of India. After testing, a decision can be taken about how to take it forward."
To detect carbofuran, the device is fitted with optical biosensors. A fail-safe mechanism, whenever the tiger eats food having a high level of carbofuran, GPS signal would be sent to the forest officials to track the tiger and save it by injecting nullifier medicine.
Calling the idea innovative, wildlife enthusiast Mihir Godbole, who is a member of forest department's wolf conservation programme, said, "IAPD considers most of the practical problems. It can be successful if the sensor works in all types of weather and even in water, since tigers enjoy bathing and often play in the water. The fact that it is lighter than the present radio collar will help it by being less intrusive."
Meanwhile, ecologist Vidya Athreya said, "It has to be tested on captive animals first. However, the concept as such is good."
►►► This takes into consideration some of the most practical problems. It will be successful if the sensor works in all types of weather and even in water