Indian wildlife authorities have begun using drones for aerial surveillance of Kaziranga National Park, to protect its remaining one-horned rhinos from armed poachers.
Security officers yesterday conducted the first flights of the unmanned aircraft over Kaziranga. The drones will be flown at regular intervals to prevent poaching in the park, in the remote Indian state of Assam.
The drones are equipped with cameras and will be monitored by security guards, who find it difficult to patrol the whole 185-square mile reserve.
“Regular operations of the unmanned aerial vehicles will begin once we get the nod of the Indian defence ministry,” said Rokybul Hussain, Assam’s forest and environment minister.
The drones will also be useful during the annual monsoon season, when large parts of the game reserve are flooded by the mighty Brahmaputra and three other rivers.
Mr Hussain said federal detectives would soon begin investigations into the steep rise in rhino poaching this year. Poachers with automatic rifles killed 22 rhinos last year, but have killed 16 rhinos already this year.
Rhino horn is in great demand in China and south-east Asia, where it is believed to have medicinal properties.
A rhino census in Kaziranga two weeks ago put their number at 2,329, up from 2,290 in 2012.