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Protecting wildlife with drones

Written by: Marnus Roodbol

A drone is a piece of equipment that has taken the world by storm over recent years, and has made people and governments weary as to its potential. It can do things that leave little to the imagination and some can even follow you around, taking selfies. 

Generally speaking, drones are considered to be one of the best inventions and, if used appropriately and with respect, they can make a huge difference for the conservation community and the protection of wildlife. As part of a bigger picture, drones are used to patrol borders and scan landscapes for potential poaching incidents, but the impact they can have on a smaller scale is also noteworthy. Human-wildlife conflict is a an ever increasing issue due to human encroachment on habitat, general game decline, the bush meat trade and so on. Interactions between humans and wildlife are, therefore, increasing on a daily basis, and conflict in some areas is becoming more complex.


Drones have been used in some African countries, such as Tanzania, to deter elephants from approaching agricultural farmlands during the daytime. The damage that one adult elephant can do to crops could possibly bankrupt the owner, leaving him with what he feels is only one option – to retaliate.


We are past the stage of blaming individuals when they react to their livelihood being threatened by an animal, so we should instead rather focus on supporting organisations that are working on the ground to help communities. A farmer flying a drone when necessary to deter a ‘problem animal’ is no long-term solution, but it does mean that the farmer’s attitude towards the problem has changed and it means he is looking for alternatives to deter an animal.


When people think of ‘problem animals’, it is easy to come to the conclusion that these animals are constantly around human settlements, causing havoc and instilling fear within villagers. However, some are seasonal and others can be as small as a quelea (a small, crop-feeding bird). These birds come seasonally in flocks to agricultural land and can cause major damage to crops that are meant to feed thousands of civilians.


So did you know that drones could effectively be used to scare off these critters? Did you know that drones could be used to deter lions away from livestock? It may not be an effective long-term solution to combat conflict, but it would be better to use this technology for the time being in order to protect species against fatal retaliation methods.

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