Poachers are killing so many elephants and rhinos in Africa that biologists predict both species may soon be extinct without massive intervention. According to the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation’s president, John Peterson, “About 40,000 elephants were killed last year to supply the ivory trade to China.” Fortunately there’s a new tool on the horizon—literally—for rangers trying to protect those endangered animals: unmanned aerial vehicles, or drones.
Tested in the past two years, the foundation’s Air Shepherd program combines unarmed drones equipped with night-vision cameras with advanced predictive analytic technology. Basically, the drones fly where poachers are most likely to strike, transmitting images of the areas to operators on the ground, who then communicate with rangers who’ve been prepositioned and are ready to intervene. As Peterson puts it, “When we fly, the poaching stops.”
The Lindbergh Foundation has launched a crowdfunding campaign for drone teams for seven African nations interested in the program. To contribute or find out more about the program, visit airshepherd.org.