Kenya’s new drone program could put a virtual end to poaching

The fight to save the elephants and rhino is going full-on high-tech. Kenya’s government, the Guardian reports, is about to deploy drones in all 52 of its national parks and reserves.

"In a pilot, the amazingly effective strategy reduced poaching by 96 percent."  See full article

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Comment by Duncan J on April 27, 2014 at 9:25am

Having been to Kenya I am stoked to read this! Safari tourism (like my trip) is vital to the economy there going forward. Plus, you can be shot on site for poaching, so I'm sure these UAVs will have some cool load-outs on them ;-)

Comment by Graham Dyer on April 27, 2014 at 9:30am

Add a pinch of salt...

96% reduction? That's very optimistic, perhaps it was new moon...

Comment by Gary Mortimer on April 27, 2014 at 9:49am

It's easy to make 96% in Kenya they have had blow all rhino for years. Safari tourism is actually a little bit of an issue. Folks are not putting money into the right projects even if they believe they are. I lived in the Mara for five years its a politics driven spot.

Comment by Graham Dyer on April 27, 2014 at 9:52am

Politics and money, the wildlife is only a means to an end.

Comment by Gary Mortimer on April 27, 2014 at 10:23am

Yes and largely it's met its end. But lets not tell the tourists that. I guess you have to ask simple questions of the industry, where does the rubbish and sewerage go.

Comment by Guy McCaldin on April 27, 2014 at 3:38pm

96% figure is coming from KWS, the government run wildlife protection service.  It's extremely politicised at the moment, for a wide variety of reasons, so like Graham and Gary, I would suggest a bit of scepticism until more details emerge.  Any chance for an exposé on sUAS news Gary?

Comment by John OBrien on April 27, 2014 at 4:01pm
The article seems to be devoid of any facts. I'm glad to see members of this forum that have actually been to Kenya comment on this drek.
Comment by Oliver on April 27, 2014 at 11:13pm

It is more than a little disturbing to see two DIYD moderators trash, without presenting a shred of evidence, a news story (from a globally recognized source, The Guardian) that is particularly positive in regard to "drones." What, are there anti-drone moles here? Because that's what this comes off looking like. Here's a "moderator" pro-tip: If you want to expound on the worthless status of drones in Kenya, please be so kind as to start your own thread (maybe at the National Enquirer) instead of hijacking mine. Thanks.

Do not misunderstand me: Just because I'm pointing out that these negative comments are unsupported and IMO out of line does not mean I therefore believe the opposites to be true. For all I know there may well be corruption, incompetence, etc at play. Perhaps like at CALTRANS, say. But at the least the effort, and the reporting thereof, are among the more powerful positives to come our way for a while (see the large number of comments appended to the Guardian article). For people from this community to get all harsh about this is really strange.

@ John Obrien:  No facts? There are all sorts of names and numbers in the Guardian article, if you have issues with any of those how about commenting with something more substantive than one word, "drek"? 

Now, does anyone have something worthwhile to add here? Like maybe what sorts of UAVs are being used, deployment stories, training  procedures, who provided what, etc. You know, the kind of things most everyone here is  interested in? If so, some of us would love to hear more. 

Comment by Graham Dyer on April 28, 2014 at 12:03am

Considering the two moderators concerned both live in Africa, are both involved in drone conservation in Africa and have both spent quite a bit of time in Kenya and have seen what goes on there first-hand I'd say our skepticism and comments are pretty valid.

One only has to look at the new highway being planned in the Serengeti slicing across one of the last remaining and largest mammal migration routes on the planet to see that money and not wildlife, calls the shots (unless the wildlife makes the money!)


We're also realists that see the need to tell the truth just so that others may just have a little doubt cast regarding the propaganda coming from government departments. The fact that it's written in 'The Guardian' means very little as we've all seen how unknowing journalists can be fed sugar-laced information to put the authorities in the best light possible (especially regarding 'mysterious drones').  

There are many other good drone stories regarding their use for good in wildlife conservation. ( (Others not mentioned but will be made public soon).

I'm sorry your feel-good story isn't all that it's cracked up to be but what is fantastic is that many people ARE trying to do something about the ravaging poaching and habitat loss.

Making sure the public is properly informed is much more important than letting them believe that drones have reduced poaching by 96% which is just BS.

Note: At least TWO rhino's have been killed and their horns chopped off in the past 24 hrs since you made this blog post.

Comment by Guy McCaldin on April 28, 2014 at 12:04am

Hi Oliver, I can understand where you're coming from, but I think you are missing some of the information that Gary and Graham have access to by living in Africa and working in the industry.  I've just spent the last 4 months in Kenya, and am actively working on projects involving UAS in wildlife protection roles in Kenya.

The problem with poaching is complicated.  If there's interest, I'll create a blog post with my perspective on it, but this article does a poor job of representing what is actually going on.  Stories like this, in my opinion, do more harm than good for the reputation of UAS.  There has been a precedent set by other companies who gloat to Western media about how successful their drone trial has been, when in actual practice, the trial did not achieve its objectives (to put it politely).

Some of the information that may be relevant is that KWS have had significant issues with corruption (including high level collusion with poachers), and earlier this year, there was an internal power struggle that threatened the legitimacy of the entire organisation.  It is quite likely, from my perspective, that this announcement is politically motivated.

To put it bluntly, most African nations have humanitarian problems that are so significant, that they simply don't have the resources or mindset to care about wildlife.  It's a political football that they use only when there are benefits to be had, or fires to put out.

I have some theories about who the UAS supplier is, and where the trial took place, but I'm not confident enough to speak up about it yet.


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