By Gothataone Moeng [admin note, Part 2 can be found here.\
With experts projecting a decline in diamond mining and sales over the next decade, Botswana's 'new gem' is the eco-tourism sector which made P8 billion last year. But the sector is grappling with a threat that won't go away - poachers armed to the teeth. In this two-part interview, Staff Writer GOTHATAONE MOENG reports on the journey with World Wildlife Fund senior programme officer for African Species Conservation Matthew Lewis about how military technologies and community participation in conservation are the way forward. Lewis was in Botswana as a guest of the American Embassy where he spoke about the economic value of wildlife conservation
MMEGI: One of the issues that has consistently come up during your talks here in Kasane has been the rise in poaching worldwide, the Southern African region included. You have also talked about the need for the use of more sophisticated methods against poaching. Can you tell me about these new methods that countries should be looking into?
LEWIS: One of the projects that the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) is implementing is a project funded by Google Impact Award and it is investigating appropriate technology that can help anti-poaching efforts. Primarily, we are looking at technologies like Unmanned Aerial Vehicle, small remote-controlled airplanes that have sensors on them that can help rangers detect poachers in the bush. And so what we are looking at is a range of technologies that are out there that can either give an edge to the rangers because what they are facing out there are poachers who are more and more sophisticated.
Especially what we have seen in South Africa is that the poaching of rhinos has become a really sophisticated crime. It has involved people in some cases using night vision goggles to poach rhinos at night. In some cases they are using helicopters. So the sophistication of poachers has meant that rangers need to respond with their own level of sophistication, it is no longer enough to do things the way they have been done in the last 50 or 60 years where it's just guys on patrol with very basic equipment. We need to look at all the technologies available that can give them an edge - things like night vision technology, unmanned aerial vehicle and small remote-controlled airplanes and infra-red cameras that can see at night. More....