[UAV] Drones are bringing help to the rescue of endangered species

The animal world, like all creation, is a manifestation of God’s power, wisdom and goodness, and as such deserves man’s respect” (St Francis of Assisi).

Introduced during the International Congress for the Protection of Animals in Vienna in 1929, the World Animal Day, celebrated on 4 October (this date is also the celebration of Francis of Assisi, patron saint of ecology and animals), is an invitation to learn about the measures put in place by the United Nations to preserve endangered species. The objective is to improve the living conditions of animals and fight for their rights. For example, every year, 20,000 African elephants are killed by poachers for their ivories. That is almost 10% of the total number of elephants in the world. This illegal animal trade is estimated to generate between $7 billion and $23 billion annually, the fourth most profitable criminal activity after drug trafficking, counterfeiting and human beings trafic.

To limit this unnatural hunting, South Africa, Zimbabwe and Malawi have set up drones to fly over the reserves and thus participate in animal protection. Drones capture images of the national parks which are tracked back to control centers. The rangers, alerted, can thus move on site.  Some African reserves even use artificial intelligence to methodically track down poachers. Called Spot, this innovative solution makes it possible to recognize the thermal signature of humans in the park, in this case poachers, in order to alert rangers before they attack wildlife, the objective being to apprehend poachers in the heat of the moment. In South Africa, students from the University of Catalonia have developed a project that could contribute to the protection of rhinos. Called “Ranger Drone”, this project aims to equip drones with thermal cameras that can detect any suspicious activity in the parks.

While the presence of drones deters poachers, it does not prevent them from continuing to hunt. Some rangers are also corrupted, letting poachers go to protected areas. While technology remains an excellent means of combating poaching and saving endangered species, humans remain the key to this fight to protect nature.