By Joanne Carew
As poaching incidents continue to rise, conservationists look to smart technologies to save the planet's wildlife.
Adam Rosman spent much of March in the Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park, in KwaZulu-Natal (KZN). Unlike a conventional tourist, Rosman wasn't searching for the big five from the back of a game-viewing vehicle – he was scouting for poachers using unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs), or drones.
The aeronautical engineer works for Shaya Technologies, which was tasked by the park to assist in its efforts to curb rhino poaching. The IT security company, owned by Ian Melamed, opted to do so from above.
"The point of the whole UAV move was to trial the use of drones as an anti-rhino poaching tool," says Rosman, adding that the focus on KZN wildlife is fitting, as the area has the largest collection of rhino in the country. Shaya Technologies' anti-poaching drones make use of small airplanes with some form of monitoring system on board. He describes them as "flying CCTV cameras".
“We face an unprecedented poaching crisis. Killings are way up. We need solutions that are as sophisticated as the threats we face,” says Carter Roberts, president and CEO of the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF). Roberts notes this increased poaching threat means conservationists have to push the envelope in the fight against wildlife crime.
Eye in the sky
The fact that the R618, a public road, runs through the middle of the park, with no fences limiting its use, is one of the main concerns at Hluhluwe. Rangers have often found that poachers would drive along the road, shoot a rhino, hack off its horn, and then hop in their cars and leave, says Rosman. More....