Night-Flying Drones Fight Poachers in Africa – Discovery News

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Wildlife poaching is an enormous problem in several African nations, endangering both the animals and the human communities that rely on them.

Elephant and rhino poaching is particularly deadly. Corrupt governments and terrorist groups rely on profits from the lucrative illegal poaching business, and the legitimate tourist industry is threatened by the loss of the animals. Because local economies rely on tourism, it produces a lethal cycle of instability in many regions of Africa.

Poached Rhinos Reach Record Levels

The innovative Air Shepherd program is bringing cutting-edge technology to bear on the problem. Sponsored by the Lindbergh Foundation, the Air Shepherd uses unmanned aerial drones to patrol national parks at night. Flying silently and invisibly, the drones track both wildlife and illegal poachers, relaying information to ground enforcement teams. Those teams can then intercept poachers before any slaughter takes place.

“Poachers, operating under the cover of darkness, have been impossible to find … until now,” according this rather persuasive video from the Lindbergh Foundation. The cited statistics are startling: Poaching is a $5 billion per year enterprise in Africa. A single rhino horn can sell for up to $500,000 in Vietnam. Last year, an estimated 40,000 elephants were killed to make ivory trinkets.

Then there is the human toll: Hundreds of rangers have been killed battling armed poachers. It’s estimated that more than 13 million Africans are directly dependent on wildlife for their livelihood.

Tech Targeting Wildlife Poachers: Photos

The official launch of the Air Shepherd program follows two years of development and more than 1,000 hours of test flights. The program also includes months of extensive training for drone teams, who are deployed into areas known for illegal poaching activities. The three-aircraft operating teams work with rangers on the ground to outmaneuver illegal poaching parties.

As of now, the Air Shepherd program is active in areas of Kruger Park and KwaZulu Natal, in South Africa. Air Shepherd is also working with officials in six other African countries who have requested help in the fight against poaching. You can check out the Air Shepherd video below.

Night-Flying Drones Fight Poachers in Africa – Discovery News