Drones spy on African Poachers

A very happy development?

Drones are in the news a lot all of a sudden. Welcome to the new world where they can help you or kill you.

Poachers of African rhinos, elephants, etc. are often organized in semi-military units and more than a match for Park rangers.  Now in some places, Kenya in the the article linked below, drones are locating poachers and warning rangers.  As miniaturization develops and technology advances, it is easy to see how a fleet of tiny drones with a small explosive could kill the poachers or poacher. Many folks would hardly morn a dead rhino poacher.  The article tells how the drones can also be used for conservation purposes, tracking and videoing animal behavior. In Idaho, the Idaho Power Company is already using drones to track salmon in the streams.

Currently the Idaho Legislature is considering a bill to regulate, prohibit, and also to legitimize the use of drones for certain purposes.

Of course, for the vast array of good uses for drones, there any many more that are questionable and some will say downright evil.  The explosive issue right now is the President’s use of them to eliminate terrorist leaders (or is it to murder people overseas?).  There is obviously much less collateral damage (deaths) from a drone than from a bomb gravity dropped by aircraft.

What about private use of drones and private assassinations? What about your privacy?

Story: Drone ranger: Unmanned plane to spy on rhino poachers By Teo Kermeliotis, for CNN. 



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  1. Mike Avatar

    I’m all for using drones to apprehend poachers.

    The problem is, Idaho is the poacher.

  2. WM Avatar

    It should come as no surprise to anyone that drones are becoming more and more common – both the fixed wing type of this article, and the multi-blade hovering type that look a bit like tiny helicopters. The latter have been in use by the motion picture industry and realtors over the last couple of years. The cost is coming down; you can even buy a mini-helicopter with a remote control for about $50. Now they are starting to put cameras on these things.

    It is inevitable that there is a coming showdown over things like invasion of privacy, potential terrorism use (from recon to suicide drones and the availability is increasing as technology develops and the cost comes down). I can even imagine some yoyo using them to locate wildlife.

    It is all going to come down to regulation. In WA the subject has been hot in the legislature and in Seattle the last couple of days.



    This advance in technology creates lots of problems for alot of folks, and maybe wildlife, too.

    I do like the idea of an explosive charge directed at a poacher, but who is to say it would stop there. And, then there is the issue of “due process” if some African poacher is thumped before a trial to determine guilt or innocence. Maybe be need to find Judge Dred (a futuristic Sylvester Stallone movie, in which a law enforcement officer does it all, including sentencing).

  3. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    You’d think Idaho would love it – now they can spy on the wolves 24/7!

  4. Sam Parks Avatar

    Interesting. It’s nice to see this technology used for something other than murdering people.

    1. savebears Avatar

      When it comes down to it, in Africa, that is exactly what they are going to do with this technology, remember in Africa, people are shot and killed for poaching, it is nothing like we have in the states watching for poachers, in Africa, you have fully armed squads that specifically go out with fully automatic weapons to stop poaching. Poaching in many areas of Africa has one penalty, and that is death.

      1. Louise Kane Avatar

        I think Africa presents some extremely unusual challenges. I know that hired anti poaching teams are a necessary evil, or large mammals will face extinction even more quickly then they are already. Check out Big Life and their work on elephants, and why Mr Brandt got involved. The subjects he was photographing, were all poached and killed. https://biglife.org/
        maybe they will need drones to stop the poaching. The idea of drones as surreal as it is no more so then killing off all the majority of wolves in the west. Some of the western states are bigger than African countries. If this were happening with elephants, tigers or giraffes the world would be screaming bloody murder. The difference with wolves, the killing has been somewhat legitimized by the BS recovery plan and the state laws. I think some people believe there must be some imminent threat or it could not be legal to kill so many wolves. The US is setting a very bad example for wildlife management and we are horrible hypocrites trying to impose our views on other countries when our own irresponsible policies persist.

        1. savebears Avatar

          Louise and others, I actually have no problem with the death of poachers in Africa, they are standing armies that is doing the poaching. They are armed to the teeth with virtually any type of weapon you can imagine, it is a completely different environment in Africa.

          My only reason posting to Sam was they are going to use drones to murder people, they are the organized poachers, so the technology is being used for exactly what it was designed for.

          I detest poachers no matter where they live, but Africa is completely different than the United States.

          1. Louise Kane Avatar

            Check out that site SB
            The poacher that killed a 45 year old elephant matriarch and her clan had already been arrested and released. He then killed more elephants. what is the answer, I don’t know but Nick Brandt is doing a good job of trying to address it.


            Meanwhile, the poachers’ tracks that the Big Life teams had been following had disappeared where the poachers entered settled country. Even bringing in the dog unit at this stage would have been fruitless.

            But as it so often does, Big Life’s informer network came through. We were informed of the location of one of the key poachers, and the following day, the Big Life teams, in partnership with KWS, arrested him.

            It was a notorious long term poacher who, to be honest, we had already arrested a year ago. He had been jailed, but then released far too soon. This time, we are confident he will be put away for a long time. We also know the identity of one of the other poachers, who is in hiding. Generally, they eventually surface, and we will be waiting.

            But it’s so disturbing, once again, how the poachers, greedy and brutal, gunned down Qumquat’s daughters, who possessed such small tusks, for just a few extra dollars. All in a day’s ‘work’.”

      2. Mark Laube Avatar
        Mark Laube

        You should realize that illicit trade in animals and animal parts is rivaled only by the world drug trade in profit. Poachers use automatic weapons and kill rangers at any opportunity. Without the animals many parts of Africa’s economies would collapse.

        A poacher is often enough a farmer without a farm just as a good number of modern pirates are fishermen without fish… and the So the good guy breaks bad to survive and in doing so hastens his demise.

  5. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    I’m all for it. Complete freedom in such a large society as ours isn’t realistic. If it means keeping our country and its citzens free from terrorism (domestic as well as international) and protects our dwindling wildlife from extinction, I don’t mind giving up a little freedom – if it means we can take a flight without being bombed, go to the mall without getting shot, and have our last remaining wildlife in Africa protected from violent poachers.

    1. savebears Avatar


      I can say this with some strong conviction, people like you scare me far more than any terrorist, and I have traveled the world and faced many of them. I am not willing to give up any of my freedoms and I know millions of other American Vets, that are not willing to do so either.

      1. Mark L Avatar
        Mark L

        What some people call their freedom is often merely vanity that won’t be let go. It’s not always easy to differentiate, like people insisting they have a right to shoot coyotes (depends on where and when sometimes). Or pour used oil in a river….cause they can. So yes, I’ll defend my freedom, with weapons, but I also realize I have to share it.

        1. savebears Avatar


          Sharing and loosing freedom is two entirely different things. Allowing this technology over our homes is loosing freedom. I sang the praises of them when in a combat situation, they were very helpful, but I don’t consider the majority of my fellow country men and women to be my enemy.

    2. JEFF E Avatar
      JEFF E

      you do of course realize that there are drones the size of hummingbirds that can be landed on your windowsill and video and audio record your every sound and movement….

  6. savebears Avatar

    Also, there are many states that are crafting legislation to keep the drones out of their air space, I have seen what these things can do and you don’t want it hanging out over your house, currently the Navy is testing a drone, that can not only peak at your life, but can carry over 4000 lbs of ordinance, what happens if they make a mistake? As has happened many times over seas and caused international incidents.

    More and more we are moving to “Big Brother is Watching”

  7. Robert R Avatar
    Robert R

    Poaching is wrong and yes it’s a crime but this is the wrong way to go about stoping the crime.
    Mistakes will be made and innocent people will be killed.

    1. Sam Parks Avatar

      I don’t think this story is about using armed drones to kill poachers, but rather using surveillance drones to spy on them.

      I would obviously be against the use of armed drones meant to kill, or assassination in general, whether it’s poachers or “terrorist leaders.” Of course, we can’t know they were terrorist leaders as they never received a trial. For instance, I guess I missed the trial where Osama Bin Laden, an unarmed man who was murdered by our government, was found guilty and sentenced to death.

      1. jon Avatar

        Drones should be used to take out poachers because it sends a message to poachers. I read a story a while back in India, they are considering allowing poachers to be shot on sight. I don’t know what became of this, but poachers will continue killing endangered wildlife unless something is done about them.

    2. jon Avatar

      Innocent people are being killed in countries where drones are being used to kill terrorists. There is always going to be collateral damage. The question is the collateral damage worth taking out terrorists that commit or will commit terrorist acts against Americans that might result in their death? That’s the big question.

      1. Mark L Avatar
        Mark L

        It’s never OK to kill innocents, regardless of some peoples’ posturing otherwise. It’s manslaughter. Just because some guy is in a room thousands of miles away pulling a trigger doesn’t make it any less a crime.

    3. Ida Lupine Avatar
      Ida Lupine

      It may be the last resort to protect tigers and elephants from extinction.

  8. Ida Lupine Avatar
    Ida Lupine

    It is the big question – to defend and protect our citizens, and endangered wildlife from extinction, or not. It’s not a perfect world out there, far from it.

  9. Kathleen Avatar

    SHARK (SHowing Animals Respect & Kindness), an animal rights group out of Illinois (known for exposing rodeo cruelty)– http://www.sharkonline.org/ –has used a drone to record live pigeon shoots at a private gun club in Pennsylvania. It has been shot down four times–news report here http://www.suasnews.com/2012/11/19719/activists-drone-shot-out-of-the-sky-for-fourth-time/

    SHARK’s pigeon shoot footage is here http://www.sharkonline.org/?P=0000000854

    1. WM Avatar

      The first link is a very good one to see one of these multi-blade hover copters with camera and remote control.

      There are definitely legal issues of privacy here, and if this thing was intending to “spy” on people who are on private property doing legal acts, then maybe it deserves to be shot down. How is this any different from somebody doing the same thing peeping in on somebody nude sunbathing on their deck or by a pool? The arrogance of these animal rights folks seems to beg for regulatory solutions regarding the use of these things. I don’t condone the shoot down, but understand why one would be motivated to do it.

      Wait until these low cost delivery systems (the price will come down quickly) are capable of delivering a payload of a couple pounds – aerosol of some nasty chemical/radiation/virus, or with a little bigger payload an incendiary bomb that can do some damage delivered right to your doorstep from a half mile away. If private citizens can use them for good or evil, just think of the anonymous terrorist, who can, without ever strapping on a bomb for a one time opportunity show Allah he should eventually be rewarded with 72 virgins in Paradise (I think that is the number, isn’t it?).

      1. Louise Kane Avatar

        Good points WM. It is a bit futuristic Orwellian and frightening, actually.

  10. Larry Thorngren Avatar

    Look for some private hunting ranch to let you shoot an animal from the comfort of your living room couch, using one of these things, as you watch on a big screen TV. All in high definition.

    1. savebears Avatar

      Actually Larry, that was tried several years ago, and it didn’t fly with most people, including the hunting groups.


      1. Ida Lupine Avatar
        Ida Lupine

        I’m glad to read that the idea ‘drew fire from all quarters’! Welcome back, SB.

        1. savebears Avatar

          I was to, Me and many of my hunting friends wrote many letters opposing this back in the day.

          I am only back to get clean cloths and some warm food, then back out again this afternoon.

    2. mikepost Avatar

      Larry, the state of Texas is the source of most of the goofy hunting ideas that make all hunters look bad. As a state, both its regulation of wildlife and its almost complete lack of public lands, has led to the most aggregious game farming and outlandish hunting practices like elevated blinds with HVAC, wildlife feeding from bait stations in front of blinds, exotic non-native species all over the place. They make ID and MT look good.

  11. Luke Avatar

    You may get some short term benefits from drones, but they are being used to destabilize nations around the world in the name of US hegemony, which is not an environmentally friendly affair. The drones you are considering here are the state of the art inventions of the corporate techno fascism which is destroying the planet. Don’t delude yourself with these Faustian bargains. What you are clinging to is a technological silver lining on a sinking ship. Drones will be used to monitor and coral the populace as the ecosystem unravels, the climate becomes more chaotic, and food shortages set in, while the defense contractors that manufacture them turn a tidy profit in the midst of spreading global unrest.


Dr. Ralph Maughan is professor emeritus of political science at Idaho State University. He was a Western Watersheds Project Board Member off and on for many years, and was also its President for several years. For a long time he produced Ralph Maughan’s Wolf Report. He was a founder of the Greater Yellowstone Coalition. He and Jackie Johnson Maughan wrote three editions of “Hiking Idaho.” He also wrote “Beyond the Tetons” and “Backpacking Wyoming’s Teton and Washakie Wilderness.” He created and is the administrator of The Wildlife News.

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