In a move to reduce rising man-animal conflicts, the Chhattisgarh government this week launched an app (application) to track the movements of elephants and alert villagers.
In the past five years, 296 people were trampled by tuskers while 77 elephants were killed in clashes. According to forest department officials, Chhattisgarh has over 320 elephants, entering the state from Odisha and Jharkhand in search of suitable habitats.
“The Chhattisgarh Elephant Tracking and Alert App works on Artificial Intelligence-based (AI-based) inputs received from Elephant Trackers (Hathi Mitra Dal),” V Srinivasa Rao, the state’s principal chief conservator of forests, said.
The app will supplement the Munaadi (proclamation by drum) by trackers so that people in the affected villages are informed of the presence of elephants in their vicinity through calls and messages, he said.
The Hathi Mitras (elephant friends) are the residents of the affected villages engaged by the forest department to dedicatedly track elephants, warn people about their movement, and send updates through WhatsApp. The central and northern parts of the state are the centres of casualties and crop damage.
The forest department on Wednesday formally launched the app at EcoPark in Mechka village under Udanti Sitanadi Tiger Reserve straddled between Dhamtari and Gariyaband districts.
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The trial of the app was conducted in three districts that evoked successful responses.
The system works in two parts. Firstly, Hathi Mitra Dal members use ODK (open data kit) app to feed the location of elephants, name of herd, behavior, and other attributes.
The ODK app works both in online mode (real time) and offline mode (near-real time when the trackers are outside network area).
Secondly, the mobile numbers and locations of villagers of the affected areas are registered using the Alert and Tracking App, Rao said, adding that this is being done so that whenever the elephant is near 10 km from the villagers, they will get call, message, and WhatsApp alerts.
The app credentials will be provided only to forest department officials and volunteers after approval from the wildlife wing so that the app cannot be misused, the officials said.
The villagers need not install the app, they just need to register their mobile numbers with their locations through concerned beat guards and range officers, they added.
Apart from elephants, other carnivorous and omnivorous animals can also be tracked for research purposes, habitat development, and planning.