GAUHATI, India // Wildlife authorities are using aerial drones to oversee a sprawling game park in northeastern India to protect the one-horned rhinoceros from armed poachers.
Security officers conducted flights of the unmanned aircraft over the Kaziranga National Park on Monday and will fly drones at regular intervals to curb rampant poaching in the park in the remote Indian state of Assam.
The camera-equipped drones will be monitored by officials, who find it difficult to guard the whole 480-square kilometre reserve.
"Regular operations of the unmanned aerial vehicles will begin once we get the nod of the Indian defence ministry," said Rokybul Hussain, the state's forest and environment minister.
Mr Hussain said the Central Bureau of Investigation, India's equivalent of the FBI, will soon begin investigations into the steep rise in rhino poaching this year.
Poachers armed with automatic rifles shot dead 22 rhinos last year, but have killed 16 rhinos already this year. Rhino horn is in great demand in China and Southeast Asia where it is believed to have medicinal properties.
A Kaziranga reserve census two weeks ago put rhino numbers at 2,329, up from 2,290 last year.
In recent weeks, authorities in Assam have deployed 300 armed guards to protect the rhinos in Kaziranga but they have been no match for the gangs of poachers.