Scaring elephants with flying robots to save them

By Casey Frye, CCNN Writer

elephants saved by drone
Save yourselves, it’s a buzzing drone!

When Google gave $5 million to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) to help it save endangered species, the organization purchased some  flying robotic drones. Why? To keep an eye on poachers – hunters who kill legally protected animals and sell their body parts for large sums of money.

After all, there’s only so many park rangers to cover the incredibly huge expanses of land that the animals live in.

Interestingly enough, this isn’t the first time that nature conservation groups have used drones to battle poachers, as the South African National Parks recently set up a drone competition to protect animals at Kruger National Park.

However, what the World Wildlife Foundation has discovered is that the drones are really only good for catching video of poachers killing animals before they get away. So, sure, rangers were able to patrol the skies with advanced computer software and tracking hardware, but what’s the point? Elephants were still being killed for their ivory tusks.

Now, however, they’ve come up with a rather unique approach to the poacher problem – Kenyan wildlife managers are using them to scare away elephants instead of the poachers! It seems to have proven quite effective too, as the buzzing sound of the robots really spooks the big gray giants. By zipping towards the elephants, rangers are keeping the beautiful creatures away from traps and risky poaching hotspots.

Featured image courtesy of Yathin S. Krishnappa on Wikipedia. Image of elephants running courtesy of Globe Foundation.