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. Shane

    Shoot to kill armed poachers. Root out the corrupt and greedy politicians who are in cahoots with the poaching syndicates. And mount a massive education effort towards the Chinese and Other Asian consumer.

    November 26, 2010 at 1:48 pm | Report abuse |
  2. Pianki

    Poaching has become a after effect of the division of Africa, Colonialization, and unfair trade. The disruptions of long establish routes taken by animals, all this and more evolves into what problems we report on today such as this.

    November 26, 2010 at 2:48 pm | Report abuse |
  3. dwighthuth

    When will drone technology be used to locate and destroy and the groups in the Congo that continue to terrorize the area?

    November 26, 2010 at 2:50 pm | Report abuse |
  4. michael S.A

    now where the hell did south africa get Drones from damn they now finally moving foward

    November 26, 2010 at 2:58 pm | Report abuse |
  5. makgroom

    another human intervention that may go bad. Drones are not accurate 100% of the time. How many rhinos are going to be unintentionally destroyed.?

    November 26, 2010 at 2:59 pm | Report abuse |
  6. x-rev

    Am I the only person reading this article and NOT seeing any mention of these being "armed drones?" Reading skills are a must before making comments imo. They will be taking pictures, not shooting, so all of the posters who keep talking about the loss of privacy, how should I say this? Get a real life and get hooked on phonics.

    November 26, 2010 at 3:09 pm | Report abuse |
  7. Joseph D

    Poachers need to be executed. All their family possessions need to be confiscated. Public hanging should be the minimum punishment.

    November 26, 2010 at 3:13 pm | Report abuse |
  8. phil

    I thought it said SA to use drones against preachers. Poachers are bad enough all by themselves for sure. We have a lot of them here in the Rockies too. How long before drones hunt them down I wonder.

    November 26, 2010 at 3:21 pm | Report abuse |
  9. notborncynical

    These drones may prevent some rhino killings, but I think the poachers will find ways around getting caught by them. This is a poor country, and like anywhere else with some people if there's a buck to be made illegally it will happen. Too bad there's such a good market for the horns. It's heartbreaking.

    November 26, 2010 at 3:23 pm | Report abuse |
  10. K-man

    As far as poachers go isn't it shoot on sight now. Who cares about how or what does the killing!!!

    November 26, 2010 at 3:37 pm | Report abuse |
  11. Jon

    I'm glad they're going after poachers and i think it's just a shame that they don't shoot them in the shoes their wearing, or not, when the catch them.

    Now, Pres Obama, can we start using some of these drones, armed with Hellfire missles along our own border. That would surprise the ever long crap out of the illegals and the drug runners. Cook 'em my brother man....

    November 26, 2010 at 3:58 pm | Report abuse |
  12. What?

    Why don't they used armed drones to fight the Somali pirates off the coast of Africa? This seems as though they would be much more effective than boat patrols alone.

    November 26, 2010 at 4:18 pm | Report abuse |
  13. inquisitiveone

    They have drones in Africa? Don't they have trouble setting up running water?

    November 26, 2010 at 4:22 pm | Report abuse |
  14. rhymenocerous

    they use the horns to make soap for american consumers. boycott proctor and gamble.

    November 26, 2010 at 4:50 pm | Report abuse |
  15. J. Zilliac

    This is an excellent use of drones (which are misused in some countries by the US military and kill innocent civilians) but profiling these evil people by taking pictures and then trying to capture them could take too long. The rhinos will be wiped out unless something happens quickly. Also people in Asian countries who buy rhino horns should be prosecuted as well.

    November 26, 2010 at 4:53 pm | Report abuse |
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