Use of Radio Telemetry for the monitoring of animals started for the
first time in India on crocodiles in the year 1983 at the Centre for
Crocodile Breeding Management and Training (CCBMT) , Hyderabad (erstwhile centre of Wildlife Institute of India. Subsequently, this
technology has increasingly being used to understand the movement of
wild animals and their use pattern of the habitat as indicated below:
(1) Wildlife Institute of India (WII), in association with Gujarat
Forest Department has been monitoring movement of lions by fitting radio
collars with VHF (very high frequency) GPS and satellite uplink facility. The use of this technology helped in identifying the corridors
connecting Gir National Park with adjoining sanctuaries and forest
areas. Based on this study, the areas around the Gir National Park have
been identified by the Gujarat Forest Department and these are being managed as part of the Greater Gir landscape.
Loin in Gir National Park
(2) Under the aegis of National Tiger Conservation Authority
(NTCA), MoEF and in association with State governments of Rajasthan, Madhya
Pradesh, WII has used radio collars on tigers which have been re-introduced in Sariska Tiger Reserve and Panna Tiger Reserve
respectively to keep a track of their movement and subsequent adjustment to the new habitats.
Tiger in National Tiger Conservation Parks
(3) WII and Madhya Pradehs Forest Department are currently engaged in
monitoring of Garu in Bandhavgarh Tiger Reserve which have been brought from Kanha Tiger Reserve by using VHF and satellite collars.
(4) With the funding support from Director Genetal, Hydrocarbons
(DGH), Ministry of Petroleum, WII fixed Platform Transmitted Terminals
(PTTs) on more than 30 olive ridley turtles to monitor their movement and use
of marine area off the coast of Orissa. This study has been undertaken
to provide information on use of offshore areas by this endangered species (spatial and temporal) for identifying window for oil explorations.
In addition to above , radio telemetry studies have also been done in
past on elephants, birds (bar headed geese) and reptiles (king cobra).
(6) A pilot projects on e-surveillance in Corbett Tiger Reserve under
the aegis of NTCA has been initiated. This technology will not only provides information on the movement of the animals but also will keep
watch on poaching and other undesirable activities in the park.
(7) WII in association with the Gujarat Institute of Information
Technology, IIT, Delhi and Indian Institute of Information Technology,
Allahabad is working on a project for use of sensor network technology
for monitoring of various species of wild animals.
Radio collar and its usage
A radio collar is a wide band of machine Ė belting fitted with a small
radio transmitter and battery. The transmitter emits a signal at a specific frequency that can be tracked from up to 5 kms away. When
trying to locate a particular collared animal, the appropriate frequency
is dialed, and signal is detected using a directional antenna, usually
mounted on top of a vehicle. Once detected, the signal provides the direction lead to the animal.
Since Radio collars are used because wild animals are elusive, usually
hidden in dense vegetation, and range over large distances in rough terrain, it is difficult to track them visually. Radio telemetry is used
to track such animals, and understand their movement patterns.
A veterinarian uses a dart gun to inject the animal with chemical
substances called sedatives or tranquilisers, which immobilise the animal. Once the animal is immobilized, it is fitted with a radio
collar. The animal is then injected with an antidote, and it revives soon.
The animals take some time to get accustomed to the collar, but soon
begin to ignore it . The collar is appropriately fitted to prevent getting stuck in vegetation, while being loose enough to be comfortable
to the animal. There is no evidence to indicate any long-term negative effect of the collars on animals.