November 26th, 2010
10:58 AM ET

South Africa plans to use drones to stop poachers

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.

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Filed under: Animals • South Africa • World
soundoff (44 Responses)
  1. Concernedliberal

    Protecting the Rhinos is a priority. These poachers know the dangers of hunting these animals, and they also know that they are driving a species to extinction, which only excites them more because the prices for the horns are going up. What they are doing is sick, and while it may sound awful, serious action needs to be taken. As for the people who believe that the drones are going to gun down the poachers... just go lock yourself in a closet and don't come out until you're ready to not be stupid.

    November 26, 2010 at 10:31 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Cesar

    Godstar has a valid point. Why poach when there is no ivory. These majestic beasts have enough problems, they don't need more.

    November 26, 2010 at 10:54 pm | Report abuse |
  3. the oath

    A lot of stupid people here they won't arm them they will work amazingly and the poachers can't hise anywhere if they make them right

    November 26, 2010 at 11:14 pm | Report abuse |
  4. Sticks

    Ok ok ok,,but dont you think the other countries in our region like Zim will be prone to the same rhino killing problem (on top of all the problem they already have) because they dont have enuf capitali priority to employ the drones like SA??? The poachers mite just cross boaders and do their evil practices that side dont you think?? I stand to be corrected here,but lets make this a regional problem not solitary to SA only.

    November 27, 2010 at 8:03 am | Report abuse |
  5. JS

    Good news bring on the drones. Why don't those who did not read the article properly go back and read it . The drones are not killing machines just assisting in catching the poachers. But it would be nice if the punishment fit the crime about letting a rhino trying to mate with a poacher !

    November 27, 2010 at 5:04 pm | Report abuse |
  6. carefree

    I read the article~and~Ive read all the comments. Although there are many great ideas, I just dont understand why everyone is attacking one another. We all have passion and ideas how to stop poaching and the punishments so lets discuss the article and our opinions to stop it and how to stop those a**-h**** from poaching. We all know its all about 'Profit'~bottom line. I dont know about the use of drones to be a benefit if authorities were only to take pictures, ect. Some comments say to "Just remove the Rhinos horns to protect them in the first place" well think about it, these are animals who live in harsh enviorments and they need thier horns for many purposes~The main purpose they need thier horns is for Defense!! We all have ideas to stop poaching and what the punishment should be~My OWN oinion is to hang a net above the drones-drop them- and let those poachers hang there awhile it would be a tasty meal for those innocent animals..after all, the animals are sitting targets~so the poachers shall be too!!

    March 19, 2011 at 8:02 am | Report abuse |
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