Military technology can boost the fight against rhino poaching


Technology originally developed for military and security use, such as unmanned aerial vehicles, could be used as another weapon in the fight against rhino poaching, according to Saab.

Jerker Ahlqvist, general manager of Saab Aeronautics South Africa, said that military technology can be deployed to enhance the operational effectiveness of the authorities who are fighting the scourge of wildlife poaching.
“Around the world we are seeing an increasing trend in bringing together the private sector with government partners. Traditional aerospace, defence, security and other high tech industries, while good at assisting governments build their military capabilities, may increasingly use the same technology for safety and security in other areas.”
“Governments and authorities who believe strongly in saving the continent’s remaining rhino population, and ensuring that other species are protected, should have access to whatever resources are available,” Ahlqvist said.

A decade ago, only a handful of rhinos were being poached but now the numbers are increasing every year. A total of 333 rhinos were killed in South Africa alone in 2010, increasing to 448 and 668 in 2011 and 2012 respectively. Mozambique’s rhino population has been decimated, with some reports stating that the species are extinct. The horns are fetching between R550 000 to R900 000 per kilogramme on the black market, making the much sought-after commodity higher in value than gold.

Apart from rhinos, African elephants face a greater predicament, with tens of thousands being killed each year on the continent, more than at any other time since the 1989 international ivory trade ban came into effect. Poached ivory is being exchanged for weapons, cash and ammunition in many conflict-ridden Central and West African countries where law enforcement is poor or non-existent and the ever-increasing demand for ivory from China exacerbates the situation.

Adding to this are reports from late 2012 that poaching has become a major source of funding for militant insurgencies, terrorist organizations, and organized criminal enterprises in Africa. US analysts found the al-Qaeda-associated, Somalia-based terrorist group al Shaabab to be among the groups using poaching to fund its activities.

Saab is promoting its Skeldar rotary wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) for anti-poaching, surveillance, reconnaissance, aerial photography and border patrol duties. “The beauty of the system is its size and mobility. It can easily fit onto the back of a trailer, so it’s easy to move around the bush or on small gravel roads. It doesn’t need a landing strip and is easily assembled and launched by a team of five,” Ahlqvist said.
“By purchasing an agreed number of flying hours, which includes all operations and maintenance by a dedicated Saab team, it gives conservationists much-needed 21st-century technology to enhance their operations and mobility.”