A meeting devoted to evaluation of the inspectors’ work at the Land of the Leopard during the last three months, took place in the national park in the village of Barabash. An interesting conclusion of the meeting was the presentation of small drone (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) capabilities demonstrated by Phoenix Fund employees.
The inspectors, who are responsible for protecting the park’s Amur leopard population, have held quarterly meetings in the Khasansky district for the past five years. Their work is evaluated under a special anti-poaching monitoring programme (MIST/SMART) with the support of the Phoenix Fund and the Wildlife Conservation Society. GPS navigators are used to track the movement of inspectors, after which a map is made and their performance is analysed.
After outlining plans for the upcoming quarter at the meeting, the inspectors went to the village of Ovchinnikovo to observe a quadcopter in action. Despite the windy weather, the drone performed a stable flight and took pictures and video from a high altitude.
Inspectors of the national park showed a keen interest in new technology, asked questions about the possibility of their use and expressed a desire to work with the drone in the future.
“The next step for drone use would be law-enforcement patrols with inspectors during which we will try to find poachers and reveal violations from air, – says Sergei Bereznuk, Director of the Phoenix Fund. – The management of several nature protection agencies, namely Anyuisky National Park, Ussuriisky Nature Reserve and Inspection Tiger, also showed lively interest in this new tool helping to take a view over their territories from above. At Phoenix Fund we will continue this project and will test new devices to improve the effectiveness of anti-poaching patrols. ”
Eugeny Stoma, Deputy Director for Security at the Land of the Leopard, acknowledged the advantages of drones. For example, they can be used to monitor the situation when tigers and leopards approach villages.
“We are grateful to Phoenix Fund for such an opportunity. Using this quadcopter, we can monitor the movement of the animals from a distance without putting inspectors’ lives at risk,” he said. “The drones can also conduct surveillance in the winter when the tree leaves don’t hinder the view, and on rivers to see where poachers place nets. Also, the device is small enough to be carried in the trunk of a car.”
Phoenix greatly appreciates the support of this project from Alertis, Whitley Fund for Nature and ALTA charitable foundations.
Video of the drone’s last flight can be found here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=9Ybalnwyk2s