Could military-style drones play a role in the future of wildlife protection? Monitoring endangered species within the boundaries of massive game reserves has long been a challenge for conservationists, but drones could help change that by covering more ground in less time and with less manpower.
Poachers managed to kill 22 one-horned rhinos in the India’s 185-square mile Kaziranga National Park in 2012, and have already killed 16 so far this year. The park's three hundred armed guards have been no match for organized gangs of poachers armed with automatic weapons. In response, wildlife authorities have begun using aerial drones to protect to patrol the park. The drones took their first flight on Monday but will not be put into regular use until the park gets the approval of the Indian Defense Ministry.
In the United States, animal rights group PETA, is following suit. The group announced Monday that it is actively shopping for drones that could “stalk hunters” and capture footage of potentially illegal hunting to be turned over to the police. “The talk is usually about drones being used as killing machines,” said PETA President Ingrid Newkirk. “But PETA drones will be used to save lives.”
PETA has not said where exactly they would implement the drones, but hinted that they would be targeting the Northeast. In order to legally operate a drone program, PETA will need a certificate from the Federal Aviation Administration. A PETA representative confirmed that they are actively seeking approval.