The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has announced plans to use drones to counter the recent increase in poaching. If all goes according to plan, WWF will to have deployed a surveillance drone in either Africa or Asia by the end of 2013 and will deploy another drone in a second country in 2014.
“We face an unprecedented poaching crisis,” WWF president and CEO, Carter Roberts, states on WWF’s website in defense of drone use. “The killings are way up. We need solutions that are as sophisticated as the threats we face. This pushes the envelope in the fight against wildlife crime.”
In 2012, a single haul of elephant tusks was seized in Malaysia that weighed more than all the ivory seized in 2011 combined and in 2013 alone a record 668 rhinos were killed in South Africa and the illegal trade of rhino horns and elephant tusks became so serious that Hillary Clinton ordered U.S. Intelligence to track poachers in the name of national security.
WWF isn’t the first to propose using drones to protect wildlife. Conservationists are already using drones to monitor orangutans in Sumatra and counter Japanese whalers. The unprecedented nature of WWF’s strategy lies is its integration of three different technologies: unmanned aerial vehicles, mobile phone technology tracking animal movement, and handheld devices carried by rangers.
This enterprise, which is predicted to cost tens of thousands of dollars, is being funded by Google. In December 2012, Google gave WWF $5 million to use for technological innovation as part of Google’s fairly recent Global Impact Awards.
“We’ve got to crack this problem because it’s getting out of control,” Allan Crawford, the project leader for the WWF Google technology project, told The Guardian. “The poachers seem to have figured out how to get round existing anti-poaching methods.”
Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons