A new project, Air Shepherd, is using drones to protect declining numbers of African elephants and rhinoceros from poachers, the pilot program an amazing 100% effective!
Unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV), more commonly known as “drones,” have been raising a lot of hackles in recent years, particularly in relation to public security and military operations. Today, however, practically anyone can get their hands on a drone, some for taking impossible photographs and stunning video (I just watched BBC’s “Africa” series, on Netflix, which was beautiful, by the way), clean up nuclear waste, or even deliver packages, as a couple of companies are investigating.
In Africa, Air Shepherd could be saving declining numbers of elephants and rhinoceros from extinction! Using sophisticated software and data analysis tools, much like the Department of Defense was using to detect roadside bombs and enemy movements, Air Shepherd is using drones to track animal movements, weather conditions, roads, topography, and a few other factors, to predict where poachers might engage in their illegal activities, killing African elephants and rhinoceros solely for their tusks, feet, and horns. Park rangers can then be quickly dispatched to the right areas, ahead of possible poaching targets, instead of one step behind, before an animal is killed.
Interestingly, the Air Shepherd drone program has been wildly successful. In one area, drones flew 650 missions, covering some 1,000 hours of flight time. Normally, the area patrolled might suffer 19 rhinoceros poachings monthly. During the six months of the trial however, not a single rhinoceros was poached! Currently, Air Shepherd has an Indiegogo campaign aiming for $500,000, which would fund the existing South Africa drone team for a full year. Some experts estimate that the 40,000 elephants and 1,200 rhinoceros killed annually could lead to their extinction within the decade, but drone surveillance seems to have put a stop to it in South Africa.