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. Dslnightowl

    Also because these men poachers operate in darkness it would be wise for the drone to have a gun and nightvision, look the poacher is not gonna stand around waiting for you to pick them up or operate during the day so it makes sence to have a drone cappable of shooting on the spot and in darkness, you'll never get them to stop doing it never so shoot to kill send a real measage to them if you seek out to kill rhinos and elephants then you'll pay the heavy price. you have had no luck in the past with detering them so send a measage of death sentance to them, pictures of them may help a little but they will be on the run and you'll never get them so you have to strike when thier acually found belive me there is no other way i know its harsh but so are they, you think if you were right on top of him to catch him that if he could shoot you to get away that he would not?? he will kill to get away real fast too so do what you must.

    November 26, 2010 at 11:19 am | Report abuse |
    • Pa

      Dslnightowl...what is the value of human life to you? you're suggesting we kill these men for hunting animals? Of course its sad they're killing these animals. But again i have to ask you, what value do you place on human life? A man for a rhino..really?

      You're either an angry feminist who hates men, or just an uneducated human being. I hope someone like yourself does not ever hold a position of leadership or influence. I feel tremendous pity for you but also anger

      November 26, 2010 at 4:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • couldubanydumber?

      THe moment humans become endangered, I'll be happy to side with their protection. I don't give a sH8te if these azzholes are "human" (which is debatable anyway). They're not worth the time it would take to try them, and not worth the money it would cost to punish them.

      The rhinos are more valuable to the planet than these pieces of garbage.

      November 26, 2010 at 8:08 pm | Report abuse |
  2. LAG2

    Just kill the poachers.

    November 26, 2010 at 11:22 am | Report abuse |
  3. M

    Just send out the drones with missiles. The US military can foot the bill, and let trainees fly them for practice!

    November 26, 2010 at 11:27 am | Report abuse |
  4. Joe

    This is NOT good news. Remotely killing people without even a court date is a horrible precedent. Keep in mind, America is practicing and perfecting the techinique in these third-world countries... but it's coming soon to a country near you.

    November 26, 2010 at 11:37 am | Report abuse |
    • IMHO

      Where is all this paranoia about remotely controlled drones killing poachers coming from? The article above that I read merely stated that the drones would be used to "help hunt the poachers." My immediate assumption was that the drones would be used to detect the poachers and that authorities on the ground would be directed to their location to apprehend them. I don't know why everyone is jumping to the conclusion that the drones will be used to put a hellfire missile into their truck (although I personally think that is what they deserve). You're all getting your tail feathers ruffled for nothing.

      November 26, 2010 at 1:30 pm | Report abuse |
  5. CaptainObvious

    Good I hate poached eggs. Although eggs benedict looks kinda yummy.

    November 26, 2010 at 11:38 am | Report abuse |
  6. Godstar

    Couldn't they just remove the horns from the Rhino's themselves and eliminate the reason for poachers to kill them in the first place?

    November 26, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
    • T. Lee

      Nah – rhinos are not like foxes, seals, squirrels, etc., that you can skin multiple times before they die.

      Nitwit!

      November 26, 2010 at 12:25 pm | Report abuse |
    • Diane

      I thought that was being done at one time.( removing the horns to prevent this). This entire thing is so sad. It is usually the Chinese who are behind the "need" for this for their "medicine" .. This has to stop.

      November 26, 2010 at 1:08 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Veritas

    Glad to hear this threat to rhinos is being taken seriously. go get those ba$tards

    November 26, 2010 at 11:43 am | Report abuse |
  8. Samuel Apolinario

    The best news I've heard in some time. Poachers deserve to be shot on site and this is a great opportunity to perfect our drones. Puts a smile on my face.

    November 26, 2010 at 11:45 am | Report abuse |
  9. Mike

    I would sign up to be on a two or three hour watch from the drone on my computer at home,every poacher I bagged, I would get a case of coores light!

    November 26, 2010 at 11:59 am | Report abuse |
  10. BOB OH

    Nice to see the Nazis out in force on CNN Yea, be like he Americans, kill them without a trial. Not like they are humans thay are evil poachers and deserve no trial just like the Pakastanis.

    November 26, 2010 at 12:01 pm | Report abuse |
    • David

      Oh, Bob Oh has finally learned! It's taken a while but he's finally realized that when you choose a side, there are consequences. I just wish there were consequences for people like Bob OH who say really moronic statements. Bob Oh, I will pay for you to go to Pakistan and embrace the innocent people that love us so much there. Please be sure to be filmed as I wouldn't want to miss the expression on your face as the animals there begin sawing your head off with a survival knife.

      November 26, 2010 at 12:05 pm | Report abuse |
    • T. Lee

      Time to adjust the antennae on that foil hat dude – and I wouldn't brag too much about being from OH as in your user name.

      Others might think that those of us who are also from OH are as in-bred, partisan-made-illiterate cretin you reveal yourself to be by the content of your post. We aren't – all like you thankfully.

      "Nazis...on CNN" – Geez, maybe better forget trying to adjust the antennae – just ditch the foil hat altogether and get some meds!

      November 26, 2010 at 12:21 pm | Report abuse |
    • dean IN

      Bob, you speak of the US as an evil body,why would you want to step foot in a country you obviously despise. Maybe you would be more comfortable in an environment that doesn't offer you the freedom and safety of America. Please feel free to leave today for a better life in a country you that meets your standards. Good luck and good riddence.

      November 26, 2010 at 1:07 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Martin

    Here's the solution, when you catch a poacher cut of is Pen!s ! Without is horn is will lost is pride !

    November 26, 2010 at 12:22 pm | Report abuse |
  12. kds562

    Now what would men with guns and machetes be doing at night in a Rhino preserve? Duck – IN COMING

    November 26, 2010 at 12:23 pm | Report abuse |
  13. Gus Sanders

    The South African Government only worries about how they can make the White person's life hard... they don't worry about animals! United States of America – please help the South African farmers in this Rhino Crisis!

    November 26, 2010 at 12:33 pm | Report abuse |
  14. dave

    So why isn't the US using more drones to blanket the US/Mexican border.

    November 26, 2010 at 1:12 pm | Report abuse |
  15. jim alpa

    i agree with arming the drone! But- not with just bullits! Hi explosives to kill the SOB's!!

    November 26, 2010 at 1:43 pm | Report abuse |
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