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Big cat tracking to get smarter in mangroves



THE TIMES OF INDIA
Kolkata, Aug 20, 2015
Krishnendu Mukherjee, TNN

KOLKATA: Tiger conservation in the Sunderbans is set to get a smart touch. An Android mobile app will soon be launched to help with habitat monitoring in the swamps.

Hejje, the app, will track the patrolling staff in the mangroves — a move that foresters believe will help them get better scientific information and execute policies related to wildlife management in the long run. A forester said this application is currently being used in two tiger reserves in India — Bandipur and Nagarhole in Karnataka.

" The patrolling staff will use smartphones installed with the app during their routine patrols. They will collect information about animal movements, salinity in water and suspicious activities, which will be stored on the data cards of the devices," said Sunderbans Tiger Reserve (STR) field director Soumitra Dasgupta. He added that this will enable real-time tracking of their staff.

According to him, all alerts are sent as text messages to an assigned number, which will be used by someone in a forest camp or a senior officer at the STR office in Canning.

The STR has 31 patrolling camps and more than 100 staffers who regularly patrol the area on boats. Plans are on to provide all of them with smartphones.

" The app will help us monitor patrolling operations. The start and end time of each operation and even the distance covered by the teams can be tracked through the application. This way, the staff won't be able to skip their responsibilities," Dasgupta said.

Additionally, in emergency situations, like tiger deaths, staffers will be able to take pictures and share them with senior officers at the forest camps.

Anticipating that poor mobile network connectivity in the area will hamper the process, the users will be given the option of downloading data on computers.

" The information stored in the smartphones' data card can be downloaded on a computer at the nearest forest office, which will be checked by officers later," Dasgupta said.

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