Drones slow rhino poaching

2013-09-04 00:00

THE Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife boss yesterday hailed the six drones that are used at the Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park as a success story in the fight against rhino poaching.

Now the hope is that the drones, which contain surveillance equipment and fly unmanned over a particular area in the reserves at certain times would also be used in other hotspot parks.

This measure carries a hefty price tag — the drones cost R2,9 million and then there is an hourly charge when the drones fly over the park.

Speaking after briefing finance portfolio committee members about the impact of the drones, Dr Bandile Mkhize said when they were introduced in April during the pilot exercise, not a single animal was killed at the park.

“To date, after the introduction of the drones I think we lost only three animals. That is a drastic improvement from last year,” Mkhize said.

“Most of the animals that we have lost at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi this year have been before we introduced the drones,” he said, referring to the period between January and March before the drones were introduced.

He said since their introduction, one rhino had been killed at Hluhluwe-iMfolozi Park.

Mkhize also said the drones acted as a deterrent to rhino poachers, who now knew that there was “something watching them from the sky” and that foot soldiers were on the ground, who jump into full action when poachers are detected.

“As much as we rejoice when people are arrested after having killed rhinos, our objective is to prevent the killing of rhino,” he said.

Mkhize said Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife was looking at replicating the drones at other parks such as Tembe Elephant Park and Dumbo Game Reserve.

“Currently, we have a six-month contract and it ends in November. We want to extend it, that is, we want Treasury to give us more money because we want to replicate it at Tembe and Dumbo.”

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