With a wealth of national parks and reserves, Zambia is the natural habitat of many iconic African animals, including chimpanzees, elephants, giraffes, lions, and zebras. Unfortunately these beautiful and often endangered creatures are at risk from a variety of threats – poaching for example. The ivory and horn trade in particular has a direct impact on the safety of elephants and rhinos, leaving the animals either maimed or dead.
To boost the fight against poaching and other threats such as human/animal conflict, WWF Zambia last week announced that in collaboration with the Department of National Parks & Wildlife (DNPW) and its partners, a pilot project will utilize UAVs to enhance protection for native wildlife. In addition to poaching detection and surveillance, the drones will assist in wildlife research and environmental monitoring.
WWF Zambia Head of Communications & Marketing, Eneya Phiri said the project was conceived following the Zambian Government’s drone use guidelines developed in June 2016. The project aims to give the DNPW the aerial edge on poachers and other threats. “The publication of these guidelines provided an opportunity for the Zambian Conservation sector to take advantage of recent advances in drone technology as cost effective and more efficient tools for surveillance, poaching threat detection and wildlife research applications.” Phiri said.
“At WWF, we view this landmark development as a great opportunity to equip DNPW and its partners with cutting edge technology that will revolutionize surveillance, research and wildlife monitoring for conservation which has been a severely underfunded sector in Zambia. This technology will go a long way in complementing the efforts of the hard-working men and women who strive every day, risking their lives to protect our country’s iconic wildlife species. It is the way conservation for sustainable development is being conducted in the 21st century and we are proud to be pioneering these efforts in Zambia.” Phiri continued.
Five flagship national parks across the country will be the focus of the pilot project which will be carried out by the DNPW and six of its partners. The project will culminate with involved officers being trained and certified as UAV pilots so that they may continue to carry out a wide range of conservation operations such as anti-poaching, wildlife aerial surveys, habitat monitoring and human wildlife conflict mitigation.
As well as the DNPW, the Zambia Civil Aviation Authority (ZCAA) and the Zambia Air Force (ZAF) will implement the project, along with four other strategic partners. If successful, it’s expected that the project will be an innovative game-changer for the protection of protected wildlife in Zambia – so watch out poachers, the drones are coming to get you.