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Thursday, October 30, 2014
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Tanzania considering US proposal to use drones in anti-poaching ops

African elephants, at risk from poaching.The Tanzanian government says it is considering proposals from private American conservationists who are offering to help the country fight endemic rhino and elephant poaching using unmanned aerial vehicles, as the parks authority steps up the recruitment of game rangers to tighten security around game sanctuaries.

Tanzanian ambassador to the United States Liberta Malamula told US online media that the offers of help from unidentified American citizens followed President Barrack Obama's visit to Tanzania on July 1 this year when he promised to help improve anti-poaching operations and discussed the possibility of using unarmed UAVs to help the Tanzania National Parks authority complement overstretched game rangers in patrolling its wildlife sanctuaries.

"I have held talks with drone experts and they have helped clear the negative perception I had about them. I have received the proposals and the talks are ongoing. One area, they said, was the training of more rangers. There were even suggestions that the U.S. government can help us with these drones," Mulamula said.

In his visit to Tanzania, Obama and Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete discussed the possibility of using unarmed UAVs to combat rampant elephant and rhino poaching in the Tarangire, Ruaha, Mikumi, Selous, Serengeti and Lake Manyara national parks among others.

If approved, the project would be funded from the US$10 million fund set up by President Obama to help Kenya, South Africa and other regional countries including Tanzania to acquire and deploy high-technology tracking, observation and ground patrol systems to protect endangered rhino and elephant populations in areas hard-hit by poaching.

As part of efforts to improve anti-poaching operations, TanParks has recruited 100 youths who will undertake a three month-long training course prior to deployment as game rangers across the country's game sanctuaries. The authority said the recruits have already completed the selection process and will begin the military training segment of the course on 1 October.

TanParks reported that it has also set up, trained and deployed a crack team of 40 rangers for rapid-reaction operations to poaching alerts within the country's game reserves. More than 1 000 poachers were arrested in Tanzanian national parks between April and June this year. 248 of the suspected poachers were arrested in the Serengeti National Park, which is home to huge rhino and elephant populations
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