By Geri Spieler
The control systems are designed for seeking out poachers and are tailored for that mission. Each drone is outfitted with a video feed and the ability to communicate with rangers on the ground. Using a sensing device and thermal imaging allows operations at night, makes it one of the most successful programs to combat poaching so far. The drone pilots are trained to work day or night. Once a site has been identified, a mobile command center is set up to control the drone and record information coming back.
A big part of the problem, unfortunately, is rooted within local government that instead of protecting the wildlife, the threat is within government ranks itself. Just this past July 2016, as reported in Africa Geographic, a Kruger National Park ranger and a veterinary technician with the Government Department of Agriculture and Forestry, within the Animal Health Directorate, were arrested in Skukuza in the Kruger National Park, South Africa for rhino poaching related offenses.
This is not an isolated incident, as it is known worldwide that many poachers are inside government and paid by private and “big-money enterprises“ to kill rhinos for their horns and elephants for their tusks.
Trying to fight poachers as well as government officials who are supposed to protect the wildlife, make the fight that more difficult. However, if by example, all poachers can be thwarted with state-of-the-art technology such as drones, it matters not who is out to destroy the wildlife of Africa.
“Rangers own the daylight. But by night, it’s a different story,” said Werdmuller Von Elgg. Most of the poaching of big animals is a nighttime activity and in particular full moons. Poachers will track their prey and then attack when it is dark.
The farmers fight
Not only poachers can be a danger to the elephant populations in India and Africa. Drone technology has contributed to reducing Human Elephant Conflict (HEN.) Farming is an economic issue for farmers trying to protect their crops. Elephants looking for fresh fruit, especially in mango season, will stomp through farms, knocking down fences especially throughout Malawi and Zimbabwe. To deter the elephants from marching through a farmer’s fence, Air Shepherd has deployed smaller drones that sound like bees, which the elephants don’t like.
It’s a harmonious solution for the farmer and the elephant, thereby avoiding the HEN.
Ultimate “Wake-up” call
We have been hearing about animal extinction for years, but it is dangerously close today.
At the Convention on International Trade in Endangered Species (Cites), in Botswana, the UN body dedicated to fighting the global poaching crisis, revealed that poaching in Botswana has not changed. Cites estimated that in 2013 and 2014, more than 20,000 African elephants were killed for their ivory tusks.
The ghastly media images of the bloody corpses of rhinoceros left behind have outraged the international conservation community. Just in South Africa, about 6,000 rhinoceros have been killed in the past decade. Approximately 1,300 were killed in 2015, but it does not appear anything has been done to stem the numbers killed.
Poaching of elephants and rhinoceros has caught up with the reality of extinction within 10 years.