Drones to Improve Rhino Protection in Kruger Park

Sample of a UAV Drone
Sample of a UAV Drone

In 2012, a 10 year old Afeefah Patel wrote a letter to the president addressing her concerns of rhino poaching and endangering them of becoming extinct. This had a lot of citizens and media houses buzzing when the president responded to it and now, the Kruger National Park is getting more aerial power to improve rhino protection.

SANParks Board Chairperson, Mr Kuseni Dlamini, stated that SANParks had received an initial grant funding of R254.8 million in 2014 to support anti-poaching operations in the Kruger National Park. “This incorporated the establishment of ‘Air Mobility’ capacity’ and included the purchase of the first helicopter in September 2014.” South African National Parks (SANParks) announced on March 19 that, as part of the current strategy to combat rhino poaching in the Kruger National Park, it is in the process of applying and evaluating various aerial support technologies, which include the testing of Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs).

indianforestIn a media announcement, SANParks CEO Fundisile Mketeni explained “The UAV project aims to investigate the effectiveness of various UAV technologies as instruments in rhino protection efforts under a range of operational conditions”.The current UAV programme has been initiated in consultation with and support from both SANDF and South African Civil Aviation Authority.

Mketeni said the UAV project will run for a full year “and by the end of the project we will have a lot of information about the use of available technology in anti-poaching operations and be able to make informed decision on what is best for our environment.”

In accordance with the much needed aerial support to the anti-poaching teams around the clock, this helicopter will further assist in quick tactical response particularly at night where we have been lacking due to limited resources, therefore it is only proper to thank HGBF for bringing this much needed resource in our fight to curb poaching.

Poached Rhino
Poached Rhino

The testing of UAV technology in Kruger National Park is implemented as one component of a suite of anti-poaching initiatives supported by the Rhino Protection Programme (RPP). The RPP is a collaborative effort between the Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA), South African National Parks (SANParks), Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife (Ezemvelo), and Peace Parks Foundation (PPF). The roll-out of this multi-faceted programme is made possible thanks to generous funding from the Dutch and Swedish postcode lotteries.

SANParks is also the proud recipient of a brand new Airbus AS-350B3e helicopter with night flying capability made available with funding from the US-based Howard G Buffet Foundation.