Drones Save Elephants and Rhinos in Africa
Endangered rhinoceros and elephants have a fighting chance against poachers thanks to drone technology.
An estimated 40,000 elephants and 1,200 rhinos are killed every year by poachers. These drones could help save these species from extinction. Sentinels in the sky are hunting the poachers or provide veterinary treatment for injured animals. Therse drones are real angels in the sky .
Wildlife rangers patrolling millions of acres of land are mostly helpless to stop the massacre; poachers kill in the dark of night, remove the parts they want, and disappear, all within minutes.
A real elephant story
The poisoned arrow was still sticking out of the elephant’s leg when rangers found it. It had been shot by a poacher and had fallen behind its herd. RESOLVE’s partner in Kenya, the Mara Elephant Project, wanted to provide veterinary treatment, but could not safely reach the elephant. Unless Mara intervened, the elephant was likely to die. As luck would have it, Mara had recently received a small unmanned aerial vehicle (or drone) from RESOLVE’s new WildTech program. It’s important to understand that drones in flight sound a lot like a swarm of bees, which elephants instinctually avoid. RESOLVE is developing strategies using drones to direct elephants away from dangerous interactions with humans – more on that below. In this situation, Mara was able to use the drone to herd the injured elephant out of the bush toward a location where it could be safely anesthetized and treated. The poison arrow was removed, the wound was treated, and the elephant has since made a full recovery and has joined his bull herd.
Saving this elephant was unexpected. This is just one dramatic example of RESOLVE’s work to protect ecosystems, communities, and public health, but it is part of a larger story. We were in East Africa to test new ways to save elephants and help communities. We brought the drone to Kenya because crop raiding by elephants is a significant contributor to human-elephant conflict, and both humans and elephants can be injured or killed when villagers try to protect their crops. We were testing the potential to mitigate human-elephant conflict by using small drones – like the one used to rescue the injured bull elephant – to safely steer elephants away from crops and villages.
Our recent test in Kenya showed us just a few of the ways our WildTech program can help protect wildlife. We are currently seeking funding to expand our drone program in partnership with the Mara Elephant Project and Marc Goss. Our goal is to continue developing and testing innovative solutions that protect wildlife and the communities surrounding important habitats.
We also recently completed a very successful training workshop for 25 park rangers and wildlife officials in Tanzania on how to use these small out-of-the-box drones to quickly and safely move elephants away from villages and crops. The project has garnered the full support of the three Tanzanian wildlife authorities.