Drones are being used for all sorts of things these days, some more ethically than others; delivering blood in Rwanda is probably the most life-saving use I have read about to date. Drones are also being used on wildlife conservation; both to monitor and photograph wildlife and their habitat, and also to help the fight against poaching.
A video from the BBC briefly tells the story of one company’s efforts to use their drones to counter poaching in Southern Africa, and the positive results they have seen. The van they drive the drones around in to take off sites, replete with satellites and antenna, looks strange enough to get people talking, so word soon spreads that poachers will be under surveillance.
The drone can spot possible poachers, during both day and night, and alert rangers to their presence to carry out arrests. The mere presence of the drone also acts as a deterrent, as poachers know they are being watched. As a result, where the company has worked, poaching has declined.
Unfortunately, it is not all good news. The drones can only operate over a limited area, so not all wildlife can be protected everywhere. And even when they do spot poachers, they need well-trained and equipped rangers to go and make arrests; lack of funding often means that there are not enough rangers to act on information from the drone flights.
And, as is so often the case in illegal poaching, corruption remains a big problem; even where poachers are arrested, they often bribe officials to escape prosecution.
So, while drones can be a big help in the fight to save wildlife, they are only part of the solution; training rangers, fighting corruption, and working with local communities so they see the value of protecting wildlife and support conservation work remain key to success.
If you want to experience the challenges of conservation first hand, you can sign up to be the first to know when we release our Conservation Crisis game app, allowing you to #playtosave your favourite wildlife.