Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, also known as Rajiv Gandhi National Park, is a wildlife reserve in the South Indian state of Karnataka. Part of the Nilgiri Biosphere Reserve, it is home to thousands of species of birds, mammals, reptiles, insects, and plants, and is also currently under consideration by the UNESCO World Heritage Committee for selection as a World Heritage Site.
Many threats to the reserve come from the large-scale felling of its trees and the poaching of birds and mammals, including the 125 endangered tigers that live in the reserve. Although conservation efforts have taken place, they are currently thought to be fighting a losing battle, with a recent report by the Project Tiger Steering Committee saying that less than 25% of the park’s staff are involved in anti-poaching vigilance work.
Drone technology for Nagarahole Tiger Reserve
Now, in response, Indian technology business magnate Phaneesh Murthy donated a state-of-the-art Q4i thermal drone to the Nagarahole Tiger Reserve, worth a total of Rupees 2.1 mln (around US$25,500).
A recent demonstration of the drone revealed that it is capable of flying in any weather and can capture both photos and video during day and night-time conditions, and monitor around 4km of forest area for a total flying time of 40 minutes on a single charge.
According to Murthy, his company has also donated 900 tracking cameras which have been deployed in various places around the reserve to follow poachers laying snares which are responsible for entrapping and killing several wild animals. The tracking cameras can also be used to build criminal cases against poachers, ensuring that they are held responsible for their actions.
Magnasoft CEO Tiger Ramesh, who spoke during the drone’s handover to Nagarahole officials, said that the Forest Department is currently facing problems in tracking wild animals in villages bordering the forest. With the help of the Q4i drone and tracking cameras, it’s hoped that they will be able to monitor animals venturing into villages.
What are thermal drones?
Drones equipped with thermal cameras are vital tools used in a range of emergency and non-emergency deployments around the world. Among other things, they’ve been credited with saving countless lives during search and rescue efforts because of their ability to cover large areas much quicker than ground teams can, all while benefiting from being able to detect heat sources.
Drones are becoming an increasingly important tool for bolstering conservation efforts in forests and animal habitats. Equipped with thermal imaging technology, they increase the capacity of conservation teams to locate and map poachers, locate distressed animal habitats, detect fires, and more. They can also be used to monitor population density and survey biodiversity in areas that are difficult for conservation specialists to access.
Phaneesh Murthy’s conservation efforts
The donation of the Q4i drone technology to Nagarahole Tiger Reserve isn’t the first time that Phaneesh Murthy has dabbled in conservation. Murthy began his conservation work to protect India’s tiger populations in the early 2000s. “Tigers were going through an existential crisis,” Murthy explained in a recent interview. “And for those of us who have seen these magnificent animals in the wild, we wanted to make sure that our children would be able to see them too.”
Murthy founded the Kabini Foundation in the mid-2000s, a non-profit organization dedicated to the conservation of the Kabini jungle system, a major tiger habitat that’s close to the businessman’s home of Bangalore.
The Kabini Foundation began delivering vocational training to local villagers, giving them the means to seek employment and entrepreneurial opportunities and move away from tiger poaching. As the villagers pivoted to new types of work, they no longer needed to prey on the jungle’s various animal and plant habitats.
Thanks to the work of Murthy and other conservationists, India’s tiger population has increased steadily in recent years, rising from a low of roughly 1,400 in 2006 to almost 3,000 in 2022. Indeed, it was the 2006 low point that brought about major changes in tiger conservation policy, legislation, and management in India, giving Murthy and others the opportunity to seriously ramp up their conservation efforts.
Who is Phaneesh Murthy?
Phaneesh Murthy is known for founding some of India’s most successful technology companies over the past 30 years. He is the founder and current CEO of the consulting agency Primentor, Inc., for example, which provides business leaders around the globe with expertise in the areas of IT, business strategies, and restructuring.
Murthy is widely recognized as an industry pioneer in propelling organizations to an all-around growth, helping them to achieve leadership positions in their respective markets.