Officials at Tsavo National Park in Kenya recently announced they will be launching several surveillance drones to help track elephant and rhinoceros movement across the country in an effort to crack down on poachers. They have also implemented new, harsher penalties in an attempt to deter such illegal practices.
The steady increase in illegal hunting has made Kenya a major transit route for ivory headed to China and other Asian countries. In 2013 alone, more than 13.5 tons of illegal obtained ivory were seized in the port city of Mombasa.
Poaching and trafficking of ivory generates anywhere from $7 – $10 billion dollars of revenue annually. As demand for rhino horn and ivory increases, so too the number of poachers. And as competition goes up, the technologies used for poaching become more advanced. Hunting rings have begun using night vision goggles, silenced weapons and even helicopters to get the edge on their competition and remain hidden from the authorities.
The implementation of drones aims to curb these advantages by allowing Tsavo National Park to keep a constant eye on the herds in a way that was previously impossible. At the same time, UAVs enable law enforcement to locate, track and apprehend would-be poachers.
In addition to protecting various -and often endangered- species of African wildlife, Kenyan officials are hoping to loosen the stranglehold poachers have generated on a stagnant tourism industry.
Kenya is not the only country implementing anti-poaching drones. Namibia is also bringing in drones to help researchers monitor and track various wildlife. These researchers are to notify authorities whenever they come across evidence of poaching or the targeting of specific animals or herds. This will decrease the authorities’ response time, allow them to cast a ‘wider net’ and focus their limited resources on areas that could have the largest impact.
On a more global scale, Google awarded the World Wildlife Fund a $5 million dollar grant in 2012 to help supply drones and other advanced technology to areas across eastern hemisphere that are under attack by poachers. As more resources become available, we can only hope to see more drones being employed to stop such criminal activities around the world.
Alan is serial entrepreneur, active angel investor, and a drone enthusiast. He co-founded DRONELIFE.com to address the emerging commercial market for drones and drone technology. Prior to DRONELIFE.com, Alan co-founded Where.com, ThinkingScreen Media, and Nurse.com. Recently, Alan has co-founded Crowditz.com, a leader in Equity Crowdfunding Data, Analytics, and Insights. Alan can be reached at alan(at)dronelife.com