By Ashish Kumar Sen
Tanzania’s storied wildlife reserves could soon get a watchful, winged inhabitant: U.S. drones.
On his visit to the East African nation last month, President Obama discussed the possibility of using unarmed, unmanned aircraft to help overstretched park rangers combat the growing problem of elephant poaching in Tanzania’s vast wildlife reserves and national parks, Tanzanian Ambassador to the United States Liberata Mulamula told editors and reporters at The Washington Times this week.
Wildlife groups estimate that 10,000 to 25,000 elephants are killed in Tanzania each year for their ivory tusks and the number of elephants in southern Tanzania has fallen by more than half. Much of the ivory is shipped illegally to Asian markets.
“The extent of poaching is very, very, very high,” John Salehe, director of the African Wildlife Foundation’s Maasai Steppe, said in a phone interview from Tanzania.
There has been sharp increase in elephant poaching over the past year, he said. Tanzanian officials say the area that needs to be monitored is vast with too few rangers.
“There is trafficking, but also there is criminality, so we are fighting both,” said Mrs. Mulamula. “If we can work together, we can put an end to this.”
That is where drones could play a crucial role.
“The American administration is ready to put up funds to help us in areas where we think we can be able to work together and put an end to this trafficking and killings,” Mrs. Mulamula said. More....