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

Views: 1149

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 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 Gary Mortimer on April 28, 2014 at 2:02am

Yes I think I know which one it was as well Guy.

There is a UAS story in South Africa that probably needs exposing, some chaps received $470,000 to fly anti poaching patrols. All they did was fly a nitro aircraft with zero sensors on board and made a noise for one month. The province concerned made great claims like the KWS ones of reduced poaching and when the numbers were added up it was actually the worst month for years. They incensed conservationists working in the park as they saw it as money down the drain. 

I think though the over selling of unmanned aircraft is happening across multiple industries, they are great but often will not perform a task cheaper or quicker than methods currently employed.

Poaching could very easily be controlled if the main puppet masters were not so well connected. I also worry that Rhino are the poster child whilst so much else is struggling it's entire ecosystems under threat not just single animal types. That of course is a worldwide issue. 

It's a complex problem. Guy is very right about the social problems which persist and to be honest are not of any interest to folks in charge unless there is an election happening.

This report is a little more realistic reading

Wildebeest depend on migratory corridors and dispersal areas as they migrate out of protected areas to their seasonal habitats, often located in pastoral lands. Migratory corridors and dispersal areas usually cross human-dominated landscapes where land use practices are becoming increasingly incompatible with wildlife. As these areas are degraded or lost, severe declines in the wildebeest populations can result.

In East Africa, the white-bearded wildebeest, found across Kenya and Tanzania as shown on Figure 1, is facing large declines due to incompatible land uses in their migratory corridors and dispersal areas (Estes and East, 2009). This has occurred as their migratory corridors and dispersal areas have become blocked or lost, limiting their migratory movements. The result has been the near collapse of many wildebeest populations. The exception to this general pattern is the Serengeti-Mara population, which increased six fold between 1963 and 1977 following the eradication of rinderpest, before stabilizing at its current population of approximately 1.3 million (Hopcraft et al., 2013). In southern Africa, the blue wildebeest is stable or increasing; although their numbers are still far lower than their 1960s levels (Estes and East, 2009).

To name drop Richard Estes and his son are good friends of mine and this UAS journey started for me talking at the bar with them. I started with grand plans that have been honed by reality.

More from another Guardian Article

The war on African poaching: is militarisation doomed to fail?

Still, the epidemic rages on, prompting many experts to argue that a wider effort is needed. A key failing, conservationists say, lies in the continent's justice systems, where evidence collection is often botched, prosecutions poorly handled, and judges often don't take wildlife crime seriously, which sends the message that poaching is no big deal. Although some low-ranking "triggermen" have been caught and jailed in South Africa, cases against higher-level kingpins have dragged out for years.

In Kenya, conservationists were outraged when two guards implicated in a recent, brazen theft of ivory from an allegedly secure government stockpile were fired but not prosecuted. On July 1, a former U.S. defense attache, David McNevin, was caught at Nairobi airport with illegal ivory in his luggage. Despite the case's high profile, his only punishment was a fine of about $350.

Incidents like these have amplified calls for poaching to be treated as seriously as drug smuggling and terrorism, with which, criminologists point out, it is often linked logistically and financially. President Obama's new task force on wildlife trafficking is heavily populated by representatives from the departments involved in anti-drug and anti-terror efforts.

A little more on the new highway

The route cuts across the Serengeti, bisecting the path that the huge wildebeest herds take in their annual migration between Kenya and Tanzania, from northern watering holes to their southern grazing pastures.

And if the wildebeest are cut off from the Serengeti, environmentalists fear the park's delicate ecosystem would collapse.

"If we remove the wildebeest migration as it is from the system, the Serengeti will never be the same again," says Markus Borner, founder of the campaign against the planned highway.

His organisation, the Frankfurt Zoological Society, has its headquarters in the centre of the Serengeti.

So the government has promised the section across the national park will remain a slower, gravel road.

I am sorry if Graham, Guy and I seem harsh its borne of experience.

Comment by Rob_Lefebvre on April 28, 2014 at 6:33am

And in other news...  is this story about Falcon UAV?


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