AI-based camera towers to help Odisha curb man-animal conflict

The new initiative intends to track and monitor the movement of flagship species like tigers, leopards, elephants and other wild animals, while keeping an eye on human intrusion and providing real-time insights to manage and prevent potential conflicts.
AI-based camera towers to help Odisha curb man-animal conflict

BHUBANESWAR: In a major technological intervention to address escalating human-wildlife conflict in the state, the Odisha government has decided to install AI-integrated camera towers in protected areas of the state. The new initiative intends to track and monitor the movement of flagship species like tigers, leopards, elephants and other wild animals, while keeping an eye on human intrusion and providing real-time insights to manage and prevent potential conflicts.

It will be piloted in Angul, Dhenkanal, Rourkela and Chandaka wildlife divisions.

Advanced thermal cameras integrated with AI and autonomous surveillance system are planned to be installed on high towers at strategic locations inside the forest areas to get real time information on wildlife as well as impending elephant movement.

The AI algorithms fine-tuned to identify the signature of different moving objects, including elephants and humans, will automatically alert the control room and allow forest teams to take timely interventions to prevent wildlife from moving towards human habitations, reducing the likelihood of conflicts and ensuring the safety of both humans and animals. Unusual human activities inside forests can also be tracked.

With height of the towers remaining an issue, especially in Chandaka wildlife division, permission has been sought from the Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) for installation of the project.

Besides, the state forest department has also started to reach out to different agencies which have developed prototypes of such devices to implement the project. The state government is already in the process of installing five AI integrated cameras at an investment of Rs 2.5 crore to keep watch on Similipal Tiger Reserve’s 2,750 sq km area to combat incidents of forest fire.

In the tender floated by the Rourkela forest division, the estimated cost of the project has been pegged around Rs 1.76 crore.

Odisha is one of the top conflict-prone states in the country when it comes to human-wildlife interactions. The state has lost a staggering 784 elephants in the decade between 2012-13 and 2021-22, while man-elephant conflict in this period has claimed 925 lives and left another 212 permanently disabled.

As per the MoEFCC data, Odisha recorded 148 human deaths in 2022-23 due to man-animal conflict and the figure rose to 149 in 2023-24.

“Under such a situation, technological intervention will play a crucial role in addressing human-wildlife conflicts. By generating alerts for forest field staff about wildlife movement in advance, it will also help detect human intrusion in forest areas and keep an eye on poachers,” said a senior forest officer.

Sharing more details, an IFS officer from the wildlife wing of the Forest department said, advanced cameras that can cover at least 25 square km radius have been planned for Chandaka and three other forest divisions. The cameras will be mounted on towers at a height of around 30 to 40 metres for effective surveillance and monitoring. Sources said, the forest department has also planned to implement the project in Gahirmatha to check illegal movement of trawlers to improve protection for Olive Ridleys during their mass nesting at the site.

Principal Chief Conservator of Forests (PCCF) and Head of Forest Forces Debidutta Biswal said, “The towers will act as eye in the sky for the department in keeping track of the wildlife movement as well as any kind of trespassing inside the protected areas.”

“Initially the focus will be on successful implementation of the project in Similipal after which it will be executed in other places in phases,” he said.

To ensure effective implementation, experts said, authorities should emphasise on installing system capable of differentiating between normal wildlife movement and unusual movement and false alarm.

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