Nepal to use unmanned aircraft to control wildlife poaching

12 September 2012 - 13:13 By Sapa-dpa

Nepal is training park rangers and soldiers on the use of unmanned aerial vehicles in anti-poaching activities, programme organizer World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF) says.

The aircraft have video cameras that can serve as “a deterrent to poachers and illegal loggers since they now know that the parks are being monitored both on the ground and from above,” it said.

“Nepal is committed to stopping wildlife crime, which is robbing the nation of its natural resources, putting the lives of rangers and local communities at risk and feeding into global criminal networks,” said Krishna Acharya, director general of the Department of National Parks and Wildlife Conservation.

“Technologies like these non-lethal UAVs (drones) could give our park rangers a vital advantage against dangerously armed poachers.”  WWF said it was conducting the training in two national parks.

Nepal had traditionally been using anti-poaching patrols by land.

The GPS-equipped planes are light enough to be launched by hand and can film the ground below with a still or video camera. They are designed to fly a pre-programmed route of about 30 kilometres at a maximum elevation of 200 metres for up to 50 minutes.

The aircraft cost about 2,500 dollars each.

Nepal is home to endangered rhinoceros, tigers and elephants.

Rhino poaching has been a particularly vexing problem for the government over the past decade.

“WWF is excited to be part of this field test of new technology in partnership with the government of Nepal,” country representative Anil Manandhar said.

“We see this as a potentially powerful new tool to improve protection of Nepal’s national parks from illegal activities like poaching and logging.”