Conservation organisation, Born Free has launched a fund raising campaign aimed at stocking Kenya and Ethiopia game rangers with a two-man mini helicopters- similar to the version popularized in the movie series James Bond- to fight poaching.
The autogyros aircrafts will initially be deployed in Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa as well as in Garamba reserve in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
“These quiet, light aircraft fly safely at low speeds. They land and take off in an area the size of a small garden. They have been used for aerial surveillance in military operations, and can carry a pilot and passenger/observer and technical equipment,” Born Free notes.
The organisation has said it has already partnered with UK based Chimera Aviation, a leading manufacturer and organiser of aviation sports who will supply the equipment. The initial round will see Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa receive one Dragon GBT 1170 autogyro while Garamba Reserve in Congo will receive two of such.
The funds being raised will be used in training local pilots and rangers to use the autogyros safely and effectively and ultimately rolling out 10 autogyros to other African countries where Born Free operates, including Kenya, Ethiopia and Zambia, within the next 12 months.
The illegal wildlife trade is estimated to be worth as much as £15.5 billion a year with organised crime groups seeing wildlife as a low risk, high-value commodity.
Allowing rangers to patrol vast areas of land in minutes rather than weeks, and to scope out seemingly inaccessible land to protect wildlife, a Dragon GBT 1170 is an autogyro light-aircraft which will help Born Free, and partners, have a major impact on poaching – transforming the reach and capacity of intelligence, using live-tracking technology, secure data/video/voice communications with rangers and control points on the ground and high-performance, conventional and infra-red optics.
“Sometimes the campaign against poaching and other illegal activity, has felt like a debilitating, endless battle. Rhino are systematically targeted by poachers for their horns. Fewer than 29,000 remain, and between 2008 and 2017, more than 7,000 were killed by poachers in South Africa alone. And, as our Born Free ‘Elephants in Crisis’ campaign earlier this year highlighted, an average of 55 African elephants are killed by poachers every day for their tusks. That’s about one every 25 minutes,” Howard Jones, CEO of Born Free, said.
“We are launching the Dragons at Shamwari Private Game Reserve in South Africa – the home of our two big cat
sanctuaries, and a 250km2 haven for wild animals which has some of the most advanced anti-poaching units in South Africa – and on the front-line at Garamba in the Democratic Republic of Congo. We are hoping that with public backing we can prove this method of poaching reduction is effective, and roll out the Dragon initiative in 10 other key areas of Africa, including Kenya, Ethiopia and Zambia within the next 12 months, and provide training for all local pilots and rangers.”