Today, June 20, 2013, a fine monsoon day, as I am driving towards BRT, I have absolutely no idea that I am heading directly into a major “Technology” storm!
Unlike most of my previous visits to BRT during which I would check into the JLR camp at K’Gudi and go on the usual wildlife safaris, this time, I went directly to meet the Park Director! All my experience (both in IT and wildlife) had not prepared me for this encounter!
“Hello Vijay, welcome, glad to meet you“, said Lingaraja with a warm smile and soon we were enjoying a wonderful homemade lunch!
Mr. Lingaraja S. S. IFS is currently the CF (conservator of forests) and the Park Director of BRT. He has this very casual manner about him that would put anyone in his company completely at ease, and then if you scratch the surface you will notice the deep drive within him to do everything possible to protect the forests and see tigers thrive!
As I was casually resting after that wonderful lunch, Lingaraja quietly led my attention to his laptop and a series of camera trap images he had obtained recently. My eyes all but popped out to see “FIVE” tigers in one frame. A mother and her four cubs! … and after all these days I still had to see my first tiger at BRT! The storm had just began…
Post lunch we drove to the “Boodipadaga FRH”. Wasim Sha from Tesscorn was waiting for us. He had this interesting product that Lingaraja wanted to explore. It was a “FLIR Systems Inc. PathFindIR Nighttime Vision Camera”. This Device is a compact Thermal Imaging Camera that enables users to detect and recognize, animals or objects in total darkness, smoke, rain and snow.
After sunset, we drove into the forest and were pleasantly surprised at the powers this camera possessed. As we drove we could detect wild animals like Gaurs, Spotted Deer, a Hare and even an Owl! It was pitch dark and it was impossible to detect them otherwise! At one time we were able to detect a large herd of elephants right next to the forest road! So close! Scary!
Put to proper use, this technology could be a great asset in wildlife conservation and the study of several nocturnal animals. Please see the “sneak preview” here > youtu.be/8E3afWfH4og
A little ahead, just as my mind was trying to understand the significance of this “Thermal Imaging” experience, Lingaraja led me to one of the 22 “Anti Poaching Camps” spread across the tiger reserve.
I found that this tiny remote camp in the middle of the forest was fast turning into a “Remote Technology Hub”!
Solar Power, High-end Communication Devices, Internet access and trained staff! I was right in the middle of that technology storm!
There is more! After returning to our FRH, Lingaraja introduced me to Abhimanyu, a smart young software expert who resides in Chamarajanagar situated just outside the BRT tiger reserve.
Abhimanyu has written a wonderful software program (Huli) in Java that helps feed field data into a hand-held device and later generates various reports at a central location. The device also tracks the movement of the user in the forest by taking GPS readings at various points.
I remember VMR (Vijay Mohan Raj), now CCF and ED, Jlr, explaining “Huli” to me on my previous visit, but I had not seen it in action then. VMR who was the previous “Park Director” at BRT is the main initiator of the iBRT initiative.
As Abhimanyu gave me a hands-on demo of “Huli”, the full intensity of the technology storm hit me. Solar Power, Camera-traps, Thermal imaging, Internet Access, Hand-held WiFi devices, GPS tracking, wireless communication devices … Am I really sitting inside a tiger reserve?
The next morning Lingraja hosted a sumptuous lunch for his entire staff of ACFs, RFOs and DRFOs and distributed 20 smart tablets with “Huli” installed on it, to his eager staff!
Having worked in the IT industry, I am no stranger to the use of technology. Understanding and embracing state-of-the-art technology will without doubt strengthen any goal. But to witness this kind of enthusiasm in a tiger reserve gives me such a positive feeling about the future of our tigers!
My hearty best wishes to Lingaraja and his entire staff!
- Vijay Cavale