Indian scientists develop ‘virtual fence’ to protect wildlife in the country

With population in India growing from 330 million in 1950s to over 1000 million (or 1 billion) at the beginning of 21st century; Human encroachment in wildlife areas in the country is rampant. Human habitations are closing in, entering and expanding in the lands, officially marked as protected for wild-life.

As a result, an unending struggle for resources between these wild animals and encroaching humans has become a normal occurrence.

It’s hard to stop humans from encroaching in the forests, for obvious reasons, but wild animals can be confined to whatever place is left to them.

In a bid to stop animals in forests from crossing over into human habitations, scientists from Indian Institute of Information Technology ( IIIT Allahabad), Indian Institute of Sciences(Bangalore), Wildlife Institute of India, Dehra Dun and a couple of universities from the US, namely Ohio and Cornell Universities, have created an alert. The alert also helps when poaching takes place and also detects unwarranted cutting of trees in forests.

The system created is capable for performing many other tasks, using its complex but ambitious wireless sensor-based system.

A research team has visited Panna National Park in Madhya Pradesh in May to assess the feasibility of such a project on the ground. The preliminary knowledge gathering at Panna, has assured the team that they are moving in the right direction.

A bit about the ambitious wireless sensor-based system :

There will be three major components of the project — “virtual fence” (VF), “trail surveillance” (TS) and “forest-patch monitoring” (FPM) — aimed at developing a holistic forest protection system. The system will be based on highly developed sensors called Motes. These sensors are strong enough to detect sound at the minutest levels. They can also trace movement of animals using thermal energy generated in the act (there are some cameras, which can shoot in total darkness by detecting infrared rays. Infrared rays are the rays emitted by heated bodies).

In addition, the Virtual Fence would also ideally have a system where an animal veering out of the forest is “driven back” into its habitat. Taking hint from how villagers generally beat drums and light torches to drive a wayward animal back into the forests’ the researchers want the VF to be able to generate such sounds and light so that the animal does not cross over into human habitations.

The Trail Surveillance component of the virtual fence will help in tracking the movement of animals, while the forest-patch monitoring” (FPM) aspect will help in identifying those areas in the forest where some unwarranted activity is going on.

The research team is hopeful of putting the alert system to many animal benevolent uses too, like preventing animals from reaching railway tracks or even roads.

The project, which will take 3 years to be completed and cost over 3 crore rupees, has already begun, it is yet to be formally sanctioned by the Department of Information Technology of the Government of India. --------

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