Maharashtra planning 'micro-chip' technology to track felines



Maharashtra planning `micro-chip` technology to track felines Chandrapur: With the leopard menace growing in the district, the Maharashtra forest department is planning a hi-tech way of maintaining a data base of felines and tracking them by inserting a 'micro-chip' in their body.

The forest department has finalised a policy of inserting a 'micro-chip' in the body of the captured wild cats to keep a track of them and compiling a data base before releasing them in their natural habitat, Range Forest Officer, Moharli Range, DS Rautkar told reporters here yesterday.

Explaining the technique of inserting a micro-chip, costing Rs 350 and not more than the size of a rice-grain, Rautkar said every chip has a unique identity number.

"It is inserted between the skin and muscle of the leopard after tranquilising it. The chip-reader would identify its number whenever the beast gets re-captured," he said.

The forest department has to take up a tedious task of deploying sharp-shooters, Rapid Response Force, Special Tiger Protection force along with forest personnel and volunteers to track problematic felines, as they did last month and managed to trap a leopard roaming in the Agarzari forest area suspected to be harming people, he said.

As many as 10 cages were also installed at different places to trap the carnivore. In the process, three leopards were trapped, one each at Adegaon on April 11, followed by the second one on April 27 at Borda and the last one at Agarzari on April 29. The one captured at Borda is a full-grown leopard while the remaining two are leopardess.

The personnel trapping the animals had to match the data (pug marks and other details of the animal), collected by the teams deployed for the job, to find out which animal was causing trouble in the area.

Now, the officials have finally decided to go in for the 'micro-chip' technology to keep track of the leopards (and other wild cats) in captivity, Rautkar said.

"We have three leopards in the cages at the moment and the one captured at Agazari on April 29 appears to be weak. Its canines are bit damaged and a couple of its molars are missing. It has an injury in its pad on the foreleg. We are following the directives of the higher ups and it is for them to decide future course of action," Rautkar said.

The forest officials have sought opinion from wildlife experts, including those from Wildlife Institute of India (WII), to examine all the three leopards, captured recently.

A committee (of forest and wildlife officials) has been formed to decide the future course of action or the fate of captured leopards ((whether to retain or release the captured animals in the wild).

"The policy for future course of action on the captured leopards would be finalised by the committee and its recommendations would be implemented, accordingly," Divisional Forest Officer, Vinay Thakre said.

PTI