Empowering anti-poaching rangers with drones to stop the poachers before they kill rhino and other endangered wildlife species in South Africa.
On December 4th, 2012 “WWF received a $5 million grant as part of Google’s new Global Impact Awards, which provides support to organizations using technology and innovative approaches to address some of the toughest human challenges.” Reportedly WWF (World Wildlife Fund) will use the funds to develop their already tested use of drones (in Nepal’s national parks) as a way to curb the wildlife trade globally.
This grant “is going to have a huge impact,” says Ian Morrison, another WWF spokesman. “The poachers and the crime syndicates that fund them are getting more and more sophisticated, and it’s time for us to step up our game too, and level the playing field.”
So what is a drone and how might they be THE solution to protect the world’s wildlife from poachers?
According to Wikipedia, “Unmanned aerial vehicles, known variously as UAVs, drones, and remotely piloted vehicles (RPVs), have been a feature of aviation for much of its history.” In other words, some form of remote airplanes have been around forever, well almost.
UAVs were initially developed for warfare. Supposedly as early as 1849 Austria used unmanned balloons, loaded with explosives, to attack Venice in Italy. Since then each war brought with it new innovative drones that primarily carried bombs of some variety.
It wasn’t until the modern era that technology allowed the making of smaller or miniature UAVs. These small drones, small enough to be carried by one person, were first deemed to have practical military use as late as the 1990s.
The purpose of the miniature UAV also began to shift, to be more of reconnaissance and intelligence gathering instead of attack and destroy. Up until recently this technology has been quite tightly held by the military. Of course civilians have flown remote control airplanes for recreation for years, however, these are not equipped with cameras and other high tech information gathering devices.
As these miniature UAVs (sometimes referred to as MAVs) are small, very stealth, can cover several miles, are equipped with video camera and thermal imaging devices they can, according to Peter with SPOTS, do the work of 40 rangers in the field. Not only that, they can do it faster and with far less risk to human life.
Each day (or better said, night) as anti-poaching rangers go into the bush to protect rhino they put their lives on the line. Being on the ground they cannot see very far, unlike the drone that gets a bird’s eye view with a far greater scope.
Patrolling reserves and game parks with UAVs seems to be the answer to curb the poaching and wildlife trade. Not only because poachers are apprehended before they make the kill, but by their mere presence poachers will be deterred.
How effective they will be we have yet to discover, however, what we do know is they have the huge potential to stop the poachers BEFORE they make the kill and that is paramount in saving the rhino of Africa as well as other endangered and threatened wildlife species.
Peter and his team at SPOTS have developed a customized drone they call the Air Ranger designed specifically for the African bush. NIKELA, with your help, is assisting with funding an Air Ranger, along with the equipment needed.
Your donation is of course much appreciated as this technology is costly, however, without it we have everything to lose.