Conservation officers are constantly working to protect wildlife from poachers, whether in America or half a world away. However the rangers of the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya have an especially difficult task ahead of them. According to CNN.com, for 90,000 acres of reserve only 190 rangers are on staff. Poachers take advantage of the spread-out patrols to kill rhinos, which are a common target because of their prized horns.

In recent years rhino poaching has increased dramatically. Conservancy officials say that a single horn can bring in up to $12,000 on the black market. A study by the South African government shows that 668 rhinos were killed last year, a staggering 5,000-percent increase since 2007.

“The equation is simple,” says Richard Vigne, Ol Pejeta’s chief executive. “The higher the prices obtainable for ivory and rhino horn, the bigger the risks people will take to obtain these commodities and the more attractive they become for organized criminal syndicates.”

A new and surprisingly efficient solution appeared in the form of an U.S company, Unmanned Innovation Inc, which will provide the conservancy with its first aerial drone. Ol Pejeta managed to raise funds through the independent fund raising site indiegogo. The conservancy says that the drone will be able to cover 50 miles of land for every 90 minutes of flight time.

Ol Pejeta management hopes that the drone will be the first of many to begin patrolling the wide swaths of land that poachers encroach on.

“On the most basic level, it’s just a sheer deterrent factor,” said project leader Rob Breare. “If people hear them, if they know there’s an eye in the sky, it’s a huge deterrence to try anything.”

Image from Giles Thomas (gpjt) on the flickr Creative Commons

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