How Drones Help Conservation Efforts

Posted by Emma Mills on 26 October 2016 | Comments

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Conservationists across Africa have a new tool to aid their efforts to save some of the planet’s most magnificent creatures. For over 200 years, if not longer, these animals have been hunted remorselessly. First as trophies to be stuffed and mounted, then for their horns, their ivory, pelts, and for pseudo-medicinal purposes in the far east. Still more are taken as cubs in the case of big cats, and sold to the middle east and other parts as pets.

Drones are now allowing conservationists to change this, and here’s how:

Revolutionizing the Fight Against Poachers

Drones tend to be used to protect elephants, rhinos, lions, leopards and so on from the attention of poachers. This is a dangerous business with many poachers using extreme violence against government officials and gamekeepers as well as against the animals themselves. Drones are allowing conservation groups to monitor wildlife movements, heath, and breeding while also monitoring poacher activity. This allows them to better deploy resources to areas in the most need, where poachers have been spotted on the prowl.

Protecting Gamekeepers Too

It is not only the animals who need protecting. As noted above, poachers are not averse to turning their guns on government employees and wardens, so drone offer a safer way to monitor poacher movements without risking lives. However, the animals themselves are dangerous whether they are aggressive, defensive, or predatory. Many gamekeepers are injured or killed each year by the animals they are trying to monitor and protect. Drones offer them the ability to record animal metrics without endangering themselves.

They Also Promote Tourism

As with Africa, Australia can also benefit from responsible tourism and eco-educational videos online. Drones produce great, sweeping footage of hard to get to places and of remote animal populations without humans having to disturb them. Once uploaded onto social video sharing sites such as YouTube and AirVuz they offer a fantastic opportunity for people of all ages and backgrounds to learn about Australian wildlife and the challenges they face.

For more:

How Drones Can Help Australian Conservation Too

Australia is less prone to poacher issues than Africa, but it has its own unique conservation requirements and more than its fair share of inaccessible, remote landscapes. Drones offer Australian conservationists the idea technological platform to monitor wild animal populations be they mini penguins, roos, wombats, or those pesky rabbits. They allow for better deployment of on the ground resources and in addition, easier monitoring of fast spreading fires which threaten both human and animal environments. 

Malleefowl Cat on mound Gluepot Reserve

Use of Drones at Birds Australia Gluepot Reserve

The use of drones in conservation is already occurring in Australia, including at Advanced Ecotourism certified member Gluepot Reserve, in South Australia. Birds Australia Gluepot Reserve has always been a leader in the use of the latest technology and methodologies to support the protection and enhancement of the environment.

For the past two years, Gluepot has successfully made use of a drone to locate active Malleefowl mounds on the 54,000 ha Reserve. Malleefowl are one of Australia’s most threatened species (the Reserve has 22 nationally threatened bird species) and we monitor active mounds across seven 1x2 km survey grids annually. All active mounds have two motion detector cameras installed that track all activity on each mound throughout the breeding season. This includes nest development, egg laying, chick hatching and importantly, predator activity – foxes, cats, monitor lizards, snakes etc.

We use the drone to survey areas outside the survey grids to locate additional active mounds.

For more on Gluepot Reserve:

Malleefowl with King Brown Snake 2013 Red

Images credit: Birds Australia Gluepot Reserve, Waikerie, SA

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