“They’re more likely to be safe where UAVs / drones are on patrol”
South Africa is home to 90% of the remaining 15,000 (approx.) African rhino. Over the years rhino have been killed for their horn, for its supposed medicinal properties, to make cups and dagger handles.
However, what conservationists like to call “sustainable use” has gotten out of hand. Today with the value of rhino horn being far greater than gold or even cocaine, rhino poaching entered the realm of illegal trade, trafficking and organized crime syndicates.
Over 1004 rhino were killed in South Africa by poachers using militia type strategies, weapons and equipment in 2013. Obviously traditional anti-poaching measures are no longer effective; they only put under-armed and inadequately trained rangers at risk.
The only hope to save the rhino from the fate of its ancient cousins is for rangers to apprehend the poachers before they strike. In the thick brush of South Africa’s game reserves adequate surveillance on the ground is next to impossible. For the past three years although the number of anti-poaching rangers has increased they have not been able to curb the killing.
To catch the poachers before they attack it takes aerial surveillance. Now helicopters are an option, but they are noisy, plus poachers mainly strike in the dark. The most positive and effective solution so far are drones or UAVs equipped with thermal imaging cameras.
Thermal imaging gives rangers “eyes at night” to “see” poachers in the bush without actually being there. This kind of strategic advantage at night is key to successful apprehension of the poachers.
The poachers generally move around in the early evening and early hours of the morning, choosing to rest in the middle of the night. Their movements are restricted due to the lack of artificial light, and they typically rely on moonlight. Hence why the poaching activity increases at full moon. The other reason for them being restricted is the danger of not seeing predators and the possibility of encountering other wild animals which will attack them.
A thermal imaging camera is able to detect and differentiate between a human form and any other animal form. When mounted on a small UAV, which cannot be heard by the poachers, it gives rangers the strategic advantage.
The camera provides very important INTEL for the rangers to stop the rhino poachers:
- GPS coordinates of the poachers’ location
- How many poachers there are
- How many are armed
Needless to say that once the poachers have been apprehended the rhino they were tracking has been saved. Not to forget that by having this intelligence from the thermal imaging camera the lives of rangers are at far less risk.
So by using thermal imaging cameras on drones (UAVs) rhinos can be saved, rangers put less at risk and poachers caught before they kill.
Peter and his team have self-funded the design and development of a customized drone they call the Air Ranger that has proven to be a very effective surveillance tool. Peter tells us that the very presence of Air Rangers in the skies helps deter poachers. The specialty cameras and equipment helps catch them, and at best before they’ve made a strike.
We invite you to join us in purchasing another camera (costing $12,000) to increase the effectiveness and safety of the rangers’ work and to stop the poaching of rhino.
Giving $7 (or more if you can) will make it possible to outfit the the third of hopefully many Air Rangers with thermal imaging cameras. And of course the sooner we can raise the next $12,000 the better for the rhino.