February 20, 2013
Protecting The Rhinos With Drones
Technology does amazing things. It instantly connects us with loved ones across the world. We can now see the Earth, the Moon, and Mars in seriously intimate ways because of Google Earth, and we have immediate information at our fingertips. But that’s not all. This time technology is on the way to help out the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) in its plans to defend animals from poachers. The Guardian reported about the WWF’s unprecedented use of technology in the fight to protect endangered animals.
In the next three years, the WWF plans to have surveillance drones in four different countries with different terrains by 2015, starting with its first country in Africa or Asia. The likely focus for the first country will be rhinos. Poachers murdered a record 668 rhinos in South Africa alone in 2012. They have not stopped in 2013. The South African government figured, “The Kruger National Park remains the hardest hit by rhino poachers this year, having lost 61 rhino to mostly foreign poachers.” 61 rhinos in less than two months! That demands attention.
Beyond the surveillance drones, the WWF will include the use of the unmanned aerial vehicle with cheap mobile phone technology to help track animal movements and also use handheld devices carried by rangers to gather data and help protect animals.
Poachers have had the upper hand in the battle for wildlife protection because they often bribe corrupt officials to avoid patrols and find wildlife. Poachers are heavily armed, which also prevents rangers from acting. In fact, the project leader for the WWF Google grant technology project explained about the dangers in Kruger National Park:
“It’s a very scary prospect for rangers … they could run into very heavily armed gangs of poachers, there’s usually four or five of them, sometimes with dogs. They’ve also got wild animals to contend with – one ranger was recently attacked by a lion. They’re outnumbered, and sometimes poachers have night-vision equipment. There aren’t enough resources to tackle this in South Africa at the moment. This is where the new technologies come in, to help them.”
So, WWF decided to start using technology to help out. A pair of drones will be used in each of the selected countries. The rangers or local law enforcement will be able to have a cost-effective strategic plan to help shield the animals from poachers, which means they will also be able to catch and arrest more poachers to protect not just the animals, but the world at large.
The real issue for rhinos is the demand of ivory in Asia. Utilizing technology, the WWF hopes to help protect the animals from the poachers; however, the risk is that poachers will start to use the drones as well. Until the demand in Asia is dealt with, though, this escalating game is necessary.
Technology sure is cool. I know that there are real issues and problems that deserve attention here, but the fact that technology will be implemented in so many ways, to continue to help deal with these issues and problems, deserves some attention. Especially since the technology is drones. Drones certainly are controversial in other arenas, but here the drones may be able to help protect animals from unnecessary harm and death.
Image Credit: Albie Venter / Shutterstock