Rhinoceros populations have a new ally, as deployments of drones in South Africa have proven to cause a drastic reduction in poaching, according to a new report.
The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa, home to one of the highest populations of rhinos in the world, has claimed a 92% drop in poaching across a one-year period using drone technology. The project saw unmanned aircraft built locally in Johannesburg log over 3,600 hours in the air, streaming live video to pilots on the ground monitoring the region.
Capable of documenting real life activity across a wide expanse of land with both thermal and infra-red imaging, the drones allow for faster and better communication with ground teams to prevent and catch poachers. Speedy and small, drones not only monitor the region without disturbing animals, but they are difficult to track and shoot down should poachers attempt to do so.
According to the report, during a one-month period, not a single rhino was killed. Conversely, plagued areas around the world may see up to 50 deaths to poachers a month.
Earlier this year, San Francisco-based tech company Airware teamed up with the Kenya Wildlife Service to use unmanned aerial vehicles in a similar test program, patrolling the rhino-filled Ol Pejeta Conservancy.
Similarly, drones have been used to document and catalogue, surveying for example orangutans in Sumatra across their vast national park.
Conservation drones still have limitations in terms of flight time and data analysis, but this fast growing technology has already help thwart poachers. To learn more, or just build your own drone (yes indeed), check out here
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