In South Africa, poachers are meeting the tip of technology’s spear as the government heightens efforts to curb the killing of rhinos for their horns.
The past several months, South Africa has employed rhino GPS, police stings and more to stop rhino killings in South Africa's national parks and game preserves.
Now, the government may put unmanned drones in the sky to help hunt the poachers.
South African Defense Minister Lindiwe Sisulu said Thursday that the state hopes to deploy unmanned drone helicopters developed by national defense firm Denel in the fight against poachers, according to media reports.
“The issue of rhinos is one we recognize as particularly brutal, and we have committed ourselves to SANParks [South Africa National Parks] in dealing with this matter," Sisulu said, according to the South Africa Times Live.
“We also want to take advantage of the fact Denel has a particular UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle] that is able to assist us,” she said, according to the South Africa Times Live.
The issue has sprouted grassroots efforts to thwart poachers. On Facebook, the group Pilots to Help With Anti-rhino Poaching is enlisting volunteer pilots to serve as eyes and ears above the ground in affected areas. The group had 420 “likes” as of Friday morning.
South Africa this week launched a new wildlife crime unit especially targeting horn poachers, according to an NPR transcript.
Faan Coetzee of South Africa’s Endangered Wildlife Trust said the issue is “definitely getting worse,” according to NPR. Two years ago. “We lost 83 rhino; 2009, it went up to 122. At this moment, we’re standing at 198.”
After a plea from SANParks, Sisulu last week hinted that the military and weapons manufacturer Denel would play an increased role in the fight against poaching.
"The SANDF [South African Defense Force] has some of the best air-to-land equipment to perform this function. Denel also boasts some of the best air equipment that can help us to stop the poaching. We are working on this matter, it is urgent," Sisulu said, according to a National Geographic blog post that quotes from a statement reported by SAPA (the South African Press Association).
Sisulu on Thursday said the unmanned drones would be able to take pictures of the offenders.
"They say it is so good it is able to detect the color of the shirt of the poacher. In the long term we can build on it. We want to develop it to the point where we can target the poacher," she said, according to South Africa Times Live.