To track suspicious happenings in forests, prevent poaching and monitor movement of animals, the state government has completed an ambitious pilot project wherein high-resolution cameras have been installed in richly-forested Chandrapur for electronic surveillance at waterholes and important access roads.The e-surveillance system, which covers the Ballarshah range in the Chandrapur territorial circle, and the control room, was inaugurated recently by finance minister Sudhir Mungantiwar, who is also the state’s forest minister. The area has around 50 tigers, among the highest in Maharashtra after the Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserve, and about 200 leopards.<!– /11440465/Dna_Article_Middle_300x250_BTF –>”This is the first such control room in Maharashtra… we will expand it gradually to other areas using CSR funds,” Mungantiwar told dna, adding that while enabling monitoring of jungles and providing a repository of information to academics, it would also prevent poaching.Around 15 vulnerable waterholes and main roads leading to the area have been covered under the project. The feed is streamed to the control room, which can press forest staff into action in case of illegal entry of humans and vehicles or suspicious activity. The forest department plans to eventually expand the project to cover around 300 watering spots and important crossroads in a Rs9-crore plan which is under consideration.”Around four years ago, when a red alert was issued over tiger poaching at waterholes, we had manually begun monitoring waterholes round the clock, especially during the summer,” noted Sanjay Thakre, chief conservator of forests (territorial), Chandrapur, adding that this had yielded good results, in terms of stopping kills.However, the manual system had its own problems — while the department had to pay around Rs60 lakh to Rs70 lakh to workers, data collection, compilation and crunching was a problem due to inadequate details being filled in the registers by personnel.”Despite the protection, we were unable to understand details and habits of animals… it was difficult to convert the data on the register as its quality was bad,” he said, adding that the cameras would now capture nocturnal and small animals who made a quick gateway and could hence evade detection manually.”Once we detect suspicious movement, we can deploy manpower. The system also has two-way communication through speakers which can be used to warn intruders,” said Thakre.”The data can be preserved for posterity… This will be of immense help in studies as it will provide details like the time taken by the animal at the waterhole and its behaviour, sex, age,” explained Thakre, adding that the tower-mounted cameras installed included PTZ cameras, which are remotely controlled and can be panned, frozen, zoomed in and rotated, and could be used to take snapshots. Thus, the system will help both protection and study and can produce excel sheets of data.By preventing illegal entry and grazing in the forest areas, the project will also reduce man-animal conflicts.According to the National Tiger Conservation Authority’s database, in 2015, the country’s tiger mortality figures were marginally up from 66 in 2014 and stood at 69, of which Maharashtra accounted for 12 deaths due to various reasons. This is a rise from just seven tiger deaths in the state in 2014.Plans for a network of high-resolution thermal cameras at sensitive spots in the nearby Tadoba-Andhari tiger reserve in Vidarbha are also on track. This will help track tiger movements, reduce the man-animal conflicts and nab poachers, illicit tree fellers and grazers. The feed will be monitored round the clock in a designated control room.Maharashtra has six national parks, 47 wildlife sanctuaries and four conservation reserves with a tiger population of around 190 in 2014, up from 169 in 2010.

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Government puts up hi-res cams in Chandrapur forests to watch animals, curb poaching