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A mix of aerial surveillance drones and concealed camera traps will aid the Forest Department better monitor wildlife in the elephant reserves of Wayanad, Nilambur, Anamudi, and Periyar.
GPS-equipped forest patrols and local informants will augment the intense combing operations initiated by B.S. Corrie, Head of the Forest Force.
The operations have gathered momentum in the wake of wild elephant killings in the Vazhachal subdivision this year.
The Defence Research Development Organisation (DRDO) will provide the drones. They will be deployed in September and are expected to be force multiplier for the short-staffed force tasked to conserve 10,336 sq km of dense forests. The head of the elephant reserves will coordinate the anti-poaching drive. It will focus on areas vulnerable to poachers and illegal wild species collectors. Outposts and anti-poaching posts will be established in such localities.
The drive will focus on Vazhachal, Munnar, Thenmala, Neyyar, and Parambikulam among other localities.
The Forest Department will develop a ‘herd inventory’ of wild elephant population in the State. Raman Sukumaran of the Centre for Ecological Sciences and Sushant Chowdury, a wildlife expert based in Dehra Dun, have provided the framework and statistical models for monitoring the wild elephant population in Kerala. Their models will help enforcers infer or detect poaching rates, if any.
The department has also initiated a scheme to create a “Multi-species Inventory” of wild flora and fauna in the intensely bio diverse Kerala forests to prevent theft.
In May this year, two Japanese citizens were arrested on the charge of attempting to smuggle 37 live specimens (beetles, small snakes, and live fish) out of India through the Cochin airport. Enforcers pointed out that a local fish species, named Ms. Kerala, sold for more than $80 in the black market.
As many as 234 varieties of Indian butterflies are protected under the Wildlife Act, 1972. Several, like the resplendent southern bird wing, are vulnerable to poaching. The proposed inventory would help identify their dense habitats for better protection.