Look out, poachers: this bird's got its eye on you. (Photo: WWF Nepal)
Conservation in Nepal is going high-tech, reports the BBC. The World Wildlife Fund (WWF) has developed drone technology to help detect poachers that enter Nepal’s national parks to hunt endangered rhinos and tigers.
Dr. Serge Wich, a biologist with the Anthropological Institute at the University of Zurich and one of the innovators behind the project, told the BBC that “[i]f [the drones] see poachers in the area, they can send out a team to catch them.”
Developers of the pilotless aircraft—it’s already been used in Indonesia to track orangutans and other vulnerable species, and to track deforestation—say that the drones are cheap to buy and run and could help conservationists across the developing world.
Talks are underway to introduce them to Malaysia and Tanzania. Small-scale and remote-controlled, the drones are still being refined. They are light enough to be launched by hand and fly a preprogrammed route of up to 12 miles, filming the ground below with a stills or video camera.
Drones may also help with another serious problem facing endangered species: habitat destruction. Regular drone flights can monitor changes to park boundaries and fight against encroachment.
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Jocelyn Heaney is an English instructor, animal activist and freelance writer for L.A. Review of Books and Warner Bros. Pictures, among others. Her favorite animals are great white sharks, horses and all cats. She is currently at work on a memoir. Email Jocelyn | @JocelynHeaney