Mkomazi Park on final unmanned aerial vehicles tests (Tanzania)



Date Published

The unmanned aerial vehicles (UAV) that will carry out surveillances over national parks to detect mainly elephant poachers is in its final testing stages at the Mkomazi National Park.

The new technology is expected to improve efficiency of anti-poaching initiatives and serve to protect the nation’s crippling wildlife.
“The stealth UAVs operate day and night, and has the ability to cover vast tracts of land discreetly,” said Mike Chambers, the Director of Bathawk Recon, a Tanzanian private company operating in collaboration with the Tanzania National Parks (Tanapa) and the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF).
This is the first time the country will be using the UAV surveillance technology following the alarming decline of elephant population to only 43,330 last year  from an estimated 109,051 in 2009 as a result of poaching.
Chamber told journalists in Arusha during briefing on the progress of the UAVs initiative for protection of wildlife that the technology was cost effective given the wealth that the nation loses on daily basis from poaching activities.
“The government must be commended for efforts it has made so far but the task of caring for the nation’s resources cannot be left with the government alone,” he said.
Detailing on the tests carried out at the Mkomazi National Park on the slopes of the Usambara and Pare Eastern Arc Mountains last month, he said the five-day trials involved the testing of the UAV model ‘Super Bat DA-50’ that is expected to scale up surveillance across the country’s national parks and game reserves.
The first UAV trials were carried out in March in Africa’s largest protected natural reserve, Selous Game Reserve, a world heritage site and a home for Tanzania’s greatest population of elephants.
The development was the direct result of efforts by the Tanzania Private Sector Foundation (TPSF) to utilise the private sector’s resources to stop the killing of 10,000 of the country’s elephants along with thousands of other endangered species including rhinos, antelopes, birds and reptiles.
“TPSF is excited to move forward with its Private Sector anti-poaching Initiative. This is a mechanism that will bring government and the private sector into partnership in anti-poaching efforts,” TPSF CEO Godfrey Simbeye said.
“TPSF is confident the approach can find support from both local and foreign conservationists by tapping into international corporate social responsibility,” he added.
Echoing TPSF CEO, Tanapa Protection Manager Stephen Kisamo expressed optimism in the use of unmanned aerial surveillance equipment to stop the overwhelming destruction of wildlife.
 “The use of UAVs is very promising, and by working together with the government and private sector, we can save our national parks and game reserves,” he said, adding; “TANAPA is willing to be a part of any effort that will stop the destruction of our wildlife.”
UAVs has been successfully used in South Africa to help tackle the number of endangered rhino in Kruger Park and elsewhere since 2013. The unmanned ‘silent watchers’ are also in use in Nepal and India help curb slaughter of rhinos.