A night-flying drone is taking on wildlife poaching in African nations.
The innovative Air Shepherd, sponsored by the Lindbergh Foundation, uses unmanned aerial drones to expose illegal hunting and help re-establish stability in the tourism industry, gravely impacted by the deaths of wild animals.
“Poachers, operating under the cover of darkness, have been impossible to find … until now,” according this rather persuasive video from the Lindbergh Foundation.
Flying silently and invisibly, the drones track both wildlife and the movement of hunters, relaying information to ground enforcement teams, who can then intercept poachers before any slaughter takes place.
Elephant and rhino poaching is particularly deadly in Africa, where corrupt governments and terrorist groups rely on profits from the lucrative illegal poaching business. The decline of these animals hurts tourism, which local economies rely on. Poaching has produced a lethal cycle of instability in many regions.
The cited statistics are startling: Poaching is a $5 billion per year enterprise in Africa. A single rhino horn can sell for up to $500,000 in Vietnam. Last year, an estimated 40,000 elephants were killed to make ivory trinkets.
Then there is the human toll: Hundreds of rangers have been killed battling armed poachers. It’s estimated that more than 13 million Africans are directly dependent on wildlife for their livelihood.
The official launch of the Air Shepherd program follows two years of development and more than 1,000 hours of test flights. The program also includes months of extensive training for drone teams, who are deployed into areas known for illegal poaching activities. The three-aircraft operating teams work with rangers on the ground to outmaneuver illegal poaching parties.
As of now, the Air Shepherd program is active in areas of Kruger Park and KwaZulu Natal, in South Africa. Air Shepherd is also working with officials in six other African countries who have requested help in the fight against poaching. You can check out the Air Shepherd video below.