Tanzania’s Ministry of Tourism approved the use of UAVs over the park’s 1,000-square-foot domain following a trial deployment at Mkomanzi National Park.
The park is one of Africa’s most verdant preserves in terms of biodiversity and is especially known for its elephant population.
The park’s website explains:
“Herds of up to 300 elephants scratch the dry river bed for underground streams, while migratory wildebeest, zebra, buffalo, impala, gazelle, hartebeest and eland crowd the shrinking lagoons. It’s the greatest concentration of wildlife outside the Serengeti ecosystem – a smorgasbord for predators – and the one place in Tanzania where dry-country antelope such as the stately fringe-eared oryx and peculiar long-necked gerenuk are regularly observed.”
Park law-enforcement will patrol the region using Super Bat DA 50 drones by Martin UAV. The fixed-wing aircraft has a 15,000 flight ceiling and can cover a 6-10 mile radius with a fuel range of 450 miles. Bathawk Recon, a Tanzanian UAV startup, will operate the fleet.
The anti-poaching initiative may run afoul of current national policy, however. In 2014, Tanzania’s national park service, Tanapa, declared that “the use of the UAVs of different sizes for any purposes is not allowed in the national parks for security reasons.” Ironically, the agency feared that poachers could use drones to scope out prey. It’s not yet clear if the Tarangire project will receive a government waiver.
Over the past six years, more than 80,000 Tanzanian elephants have been slaughtered for their ivory.
Drones have become one of the most promising weapons worldwide in the war on wildlife poaching.
In 2014, drone firm, EYE Remote Solutions led a UAV project in a rhino habitat in South Africa. The company approached the project in cooperation with an NGO as “a high security, rapid deployment, long term presence job, and we enlisted the assistance of several high-end technological partners to produce a viable solution – deployable immediately.”
More recently in South Africa, the Directorate for Priority Crime Investigation worked with state-owned tech firm Denel Dynamics on a UAV solution to battle rhino poachers in Kruger National Park.
Readers can learn more about conservation efforts driven by drones here.
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