Eye in the sky to spot stripes

Police officers with one of the two drones deployed in Lalgarh on Thursday. Picture by Saikat Santra

Lalgarh/Calcutta: Two drones hovered over the Lalgarh jungles for a couple of hours on Thursday, scouting for the full-grown male tiger that has eluded forest officials for nearly a week.

The drones drew a blank on Thursday but will be deployed again early on Friday, forest officials said.

Chief minister Mamata Banerjee had suggested on Wednesday that drones could be used to locate the tiger.

The drones, belonging to Calcutta police, arrived in Lalgarh on Thursday morning and were pressed into action from around 3.30pm and taken down after sunset, a local forest official said.

Ravi Kant Sinha, the chief wildlife warden of the state, said the drones covered around 2sqkm on the first day. "The range we are concentrating on is spread over some 20-25sqkm. We plan to move the drones from one grid to another," said Sinha, who reached Lalgarh on Thursday evening.

The dense cover of trees is proving an obstacle to the drones, which were unable to fly lower than 100 metres from the ground. "We are trying to programme the drones in a way that allows them to fly at a lower altitude," said the official.

Forest officials are confident that the tiger is still in the forests adjoining Lalgarh and has not strayed to neighbouring districts. Fresh pug marks are being found every day, said an official.

"We are playing the waiting game. We don't want to be too proactive and disturb the tiger. He may then move away," Sinha said.


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