Jul 30

What comes to mind when you think of the word “drones”? It’s usually not conservation. Increasingly, however drones are being used as vital tools for conservation. Drones can provide stunning images of landscapes and wildlife from formerly impossible locations. However, a lot of questions arise when you think about how to use drones for conservation.

How does it work? Does it affect animals? How do you get started? If these are some of your burning questions then allow us to clarify.

The Arkive Team had the awesome opportunity to speak with wildlife conservation experts about the use of drones for conservation. We spoke with Annika Lieben from The Shadowview Foundation and Serge Wich from Conservationdrones.org.

Can you tell us the story behind the creation of your organization?

Serge: Conservationdrones.org started in January 2011 when I met with Lian Pin Koh, a conservation ecologist and we began discussing the issue of forest loss in Southeast Asia. It is difficult to monitor a species like the orangutan. We thought it would be amazing to monitor species from the air. Piloted planes and helicopters were expensive to use so we settled upon the use of drones, since they are more cost-effective.


Bornean orangutan infant hanging from tree

Annika: Well, our co-founder Laurens de Groot used to work for Sea Shepherds. They were in Cape Cross, Namibia where a massive seal culling occurs every year. Laurens and the others were detected and had to get away. In 2012, Laurens and others returned to Namibia and used drones to document the seal culling. It worked quite well and because of its success Laurens decided to further pursue the use of drones for conservation.

How did you settle upon using drones for conservation?

Serge: Well, helicopters and planes are not always available when you need them. Furthermore when using helicopters you must fly relatively low; this is quite a risk, because if there is a glitch with the engine there is very little time to react. On the other hand using drones only requires effort and funding and does not put the life of individuals at risk. By using drones for conservation, you help encourage other conservation groups to use drones for this purpose.

Annika: The use of drones offers a lot of opportunities that traditional methods cannot. Drones are a versatile tool that can be used for scientific research and data collection.

Drone - Shadowview Foundation

Laurens de Groot (left) and team with drone (© Shadowview Foundation)

What are the benefits of using drones for conservation?

Serge: Drones are a great tool that allows you to capture high resolution imagery from a variety of sensors (RGB cameras, NIR cameras, thermal cameras) by flying over an area. Since drones do not have the availability restrictions of planes and helicopters, you can use them with greater frequency.  Additionally, it is more cost-efficient.

Drones 1 - Conservationdrones

Serge Wich (bottom right), Lian Pin Koh (top right) and team with drones (© Conservationsdrones.org)

Annika: Drones are a new way of looking at conservation. It allows you to gather data in an efficient manner and they are much cheaper than using a helicopter or plane. Additionally, poachers are not used to a drone, which provides an advantage.

What would you say to people who are skeptical about the use of drones for conservation?

Serge: I would start by asking them, which aspect of drones causes them to be skeptical. Based on that I can explain to them how drones are used for conservation and then we can see if they remain skeptical. More generally I would tell people that because the learning curve for operating drones (particularly fixed-wing systems) can be steep, operators receive extensive training. After the training they are able to operate these systems in a safe manner. While there used to be an association of drones with the military, I think this perception is changing quickly. Drones are no longer solely for the military; they are now commonly used for humanitarian work, research and conservation.

Annika: Drones provide an additional method of creating a network for fighting wildlife crime and learning about species. It’s all about working together.

How can amateur filmmakers learn to properly use drones for wildlife filmmaking? What are the best practices?

Serge: I recommend they look into small companies that offer thorough training for operating drones. By doing this you reduce the risk of the loss of your drone. It is important to do flight training so you can properly operate the drone in the field. Get the proper qualifications and be aware of safety measures. Safety is key.

For best practices, in case anything should malfunction it is vital to have a fail-safe system.  You can program the drone to land by itself or come back to a designated start point if something goes awry. You can also set up a geo-fence which is a pre-determined area in which the drone is programmed to operate. If it goes outside this area it will either land or return to a starting point. Despite the drones ability to fly on autopilot, it is still very important to know how to operate it well.

Landscape - Conservationdrones.org

Flight over orangutan re-introduction site in Jantho, Aceh (© Conservationdrones.org)

Annika: Foremost, to properly use drones one must be well-trained in how to fly a drone when in close proximity to animals. Learn how to safely fly drones when near birds, since birds sometimes identify drones as birds of prey.  Herd animals will also become spooked if one of their members starts to get agitated. It is always important to keep your distance from the species being studied or observed. If an animal becomes agitated because of the drone’s presence it is best to move away from the animal.

How do you maintain a safe environment for the species being filmed?

Serge: You should not fly drones too close to the species being studied. This is especially true for birds who might perceive drones as a predator and attempt to attack it. During your first flight you should fly fairly high and gauge the impact of the presence and/or noise on the behavior of the species. In this manner, you can determine which height is appropriate. You should also use a drone that has redundancy in its motors so that  it will land by itself if it loses one of its engines rather than simply crash.

Annika: In order to maintain a safe environment, it is important to do your research on the species in order to understand how it will react to a flying apparatus. Doing your research assists in providing the best approach for filming.

Landscape - Shadowview Foundation

Amazing aerial imagery (© Shadowview Foundation)

What have been the most meaningful successes of your organization?

Serge: I think the most meaningful successes have been the ability to detect orangutans and chimpanzees in remote areas. Also at the Chitwan National Park we trained WWF members and Nepali rangers to use drones in their anti-poaching efforts of rhinos. Recently we have also been successful in detecting habitat change which is a key component of conservation work.


Juvenile chimpanzee hanging in branches

Annika: In collaboration with an anti-poaching team, we assisted in the capture of rhino poachers operating in South Africa and in Malawi, we used one of our drones to guide rangers to the camp of suspected poachers. We also used drones to monitor and detect illegal fishing vessels in the Mediterranean with our project partner The Black Fish. We collected evidence that will be presented to the European Commission.

One of our recent projects involves using drones to protect elephants traveling along the Kasigau Wildlife Corridor in Kenya. Drones would be used to detect poachers, collect evidence, and increase the chance of catching poachers. It would create a network to defeat a network.


African elephants

What do you see as the future of your organization? 

Serge: We want to continue to use drones to do conservation work.  We also want to link up researchers and conservationists with the information they need in a successful way. We are working with universities to create data collection centers of the footage from drones.  One goal is to create software that will look through all the film and immediately pinpoint the footage, which includes a specific species of interest.

Annika: We are constantly looking for new technologies that will assist us in the fight against wildlife crime. We want to keep growing and we will try any method to stop poaching.

The conservation work being done by Conservationdrones.org and The Shadowview Foundation highlight the versatility and utility of drones for research, data collection, and the prevention of wildlife crime.

Keep up the good work!

William Lazaro, Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

Jun 19

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News

ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week.

Article originally published on Friday, Jun 12, 2015

U.S. grants new protections for captive chimpanzees


Young eastern chimpanzee

On June 12th the US Fish and Wildlife Service declared that all chimpanzees both in the wild and captive are endangered. Poaching and habitat degradation are the main factors affecting wild populations.

View original article

Article originally published on Saturday, Jun 13, 2015

Questions about black rhino sent to Botswana


Black rhinoceros drinking

Botswana asked Zimbabwe to supply it with 10 black rhinos for its Moremi Game Reserve. Botswana received 5 black rhinos that apparently originated from South Africa not Zimbabwe. Some experts are against mixing Zimbabwean rhinos with the South African ones, since they are genetically distinct.

View original article

Article originally published on Sunday, Jun 14, 2015

“Critically endangered” dusky gopher frogs released into wildlife refuge in Mississippi


Dusky gopher frog metamorph

Wildlife officials have release 1,074 dusky gopher frogs since May. Every frog, which is released, has a tracking device attached to its leg so their progress can be monitored. The dusky gopher frog has been on the list of endangered species since 2001.

View original article

Article originally published on Monday, Jun 15, 2015

France bans the world’s leading herbicide from garden stores


Monarch butterfly resting on a flowering plant

France has banned Roundup, a herbicide since it contains glyphosate, which is potentially a carcinogen. Glyphosate has been linked to the decline in monarch butterflies. The chemical kills milkweed which is the monarch caterpillar’s only food source.

View original article

Article originally published on Tuesday, Jun 16, 2015

Mind meld: Social wasps share brainpower


Common wasp feeding

Researchers found that as wasps become more social, the brain regions responsible for complex cognition decreases in size. Researchers hypothesize that wasps make up for this decrease by working together and “sharing brain power”.

View original article

Article originally published on Wednesday, Jun 17, 2015

Finding more ammo than animals in huge African rain forest


Forest elephant bull

Scientists undertook an expedition into Cameroon’s Dja Faunal Reserve hoping to find chimpanzees, western lowland gorillas, and forest elephants. Instead however, they found poaching camps and gun cartridges and few signs of animals.

View original article

Male-western-lowland-gorilla-portrait (1)

Male western lowland gorilla

Article originally published on Thursday, Jun 18, 2015

All kangaroos are left-handed


Red kangaroo photo

It was previously thought that “true” handedness, which is predictably using one hand over another, was unique to primates.  However,  researchers found that kangaroos show a natural preference for their left hands when performing daily tasks. This feature was especially apparent in eastern grey kangaroos and red kangaroos.

View original article


Male, female and young eastern grey kangaroo

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

Apr 24

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News

ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week.

Article originally published on Friday, Apr 17, 2015

Your name here: auctioning the naming rights to new species to fund conservation


Titan beetle climbing branch

Ecologist, Mary Lowman was on a mission to save Ethiopia’s church forests so she needed an innovative way to fundraise. Thus began the process of auctioning off new species’ naming rights which includes several different new species of beetle.

View original article

Article originally published on Saturday, Apr 18, 2015

Approving a hunt is a misguided solution to bear problem


American black bear and cinnamon morph black bears

On Wednesday (Apr 15), the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission approved a plan to legalize bear hunts in Florida, specifically targeting the black bear. The rationale is that their population has rebounded and that there has been an increase in human-bear encounters.

View original article

Article originally published on Sunday, Apr 19, 2015

Sea lion pup taken from Dockweiler Beach parking lot, witness says


Young California sea lion

A witness  saw four people harassing two sea lion pups; the pups were not injured. The suspects then took one of the pups and put it in their car and drove away. The whereabouts of the pup are unknown at this time.

View original article

Article originally published on Monday, Apr 20, 2015

Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are mysteriously vanishing


Kemp’s ridley turtle hatchlings

In 2010, nest numbers for Kemp’s ridley turtle fell by 35 percent at primary nesting beaches with slight increases in 2011 and 2012. 1n 2014, however the nest total was the lowest in eight years. While the BP oil spill may be a factor, other researchers suggest that colder water temperatures might have affected their populations

View original article

Article originally published on Tuesday, Apr 21, 2015

Judge recognizes two chimpanzees as legal persons: a first


Eastern chimpanzee

Hercules and Leo, the chimpanzees have been determined to be people in New York courts. Both chimpanzees were being used for biomedical experiments. Now, they will spend the rest of their lives at an animal sanctuary.

View original article

Article originally published on Wednesday Apr 22, 2015

Elephant contraception? How a vaccine is replacing sharpshooters


African elephant family

Elephants used to be killed by the hundreds in South Africa to keep their numbers below a certain threshold. At Greater Makalali, however, the vaccine PZP has cut the rate of increase of the population by half, its success has led to its adoption in other South African wildlife reserves.

View original article

Article originally published on Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

Could Bees Be Addicted to Pesticides?


Honey bee asleep during cold weather

It appears that bees prefer to eat pesticide –contaminated plants. Neonicotinoids may act like drugs to make “foods” containing these substances more rewarding. Previous research has shown that neonicotinoids scramble the memory and navigation function in bees.

View original article

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

Apr 17

Arkive’s Week in Review — Wildlife News

ICYMI: Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week.

Article originally published on Friday, Apr 10, 2015

Elephant mother and calf reunite after 3 years apart


Indian elephant cow and calf

MeBai, a female Asian elephant, was just three years old when she was separated from her mother to enter the tourism industry. Three years later, however, MeBai has been reunited with her mother Mae Yui, with plans to rehabilitate and release them into the wild.

View original article

Article originally published on Saturday, Apr 11, 2015

Cat-eating Nile lizards targeted in Florida


Nile monitor

Florida state wildlife officials have said that Nile monitors can be dangerous to pets and people. Officials are asking residents to report any sightings. Nile monitors join the Burmese python and lionfish as invasive species residing in Florida.

View original article


Burmese python

Article originally published on Sunday, Apr 12, 2015

The last male northern white rhino must now be kept under armed guard 24/7


Male northern white rhinoceros

Sudan, the last remaining male northern white rhino, is being cared for at the Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Kenya along with two females. Including two other females in captivity, there now remains only 5 individuals of this white rhinoceros subspecies.

View original article

Article originally published on Monday, Apr 13, 2015

Hope for world’s zaniest fish


Smalltooth sawfish in shallow water

Researchers discovered that smalltooth sawfish spend most of their time in a subtropical Florida bay near the coast. The next step involves understanding the behavior the sawfish exhibit in this environment.

View original article

Article originally published on Tuesday, Apr 14, 2015

Rare Omura’s whale washes up in Australia


Fin whale

This is only the second sighting of an Omura’s whale in Australia, and one of the few sightings globally. There is no population estimate for this species and little is known about its ecology or reproductive biology. This species is often incorrectly identified as a fin whale.

View original article

Article originally published on Wednesday, Apr 15, 2015

Iowa State anthropologist finds female chimps more likely to use tools when hunting


Female chimpanzee with infants

At a research site in Fongoli, Senegal it appears that female chimpanzees are more likely to use tools to hunt, but only at this site. The underlying reason seems to be that dominant males allow females and low-ranking males to keep their prey as opposed to taking it from them as is observed in other sites.

View original article

Article originally published on Thursday, Apr 16, 2015

100 volunteers fail to rescue a beached whale shark after hours of struggling


Whale shark filter feeding

On Monday, a whale shark washed up on a beach in Ecuador. Volunteers attempted to return the whale to the water, but were unsuccessful. Whale sharks are currently listed as vulnerable and are known for being quite docile.

View original article

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA



Jan 30

Arkive has compiled some of the biggest and most interesting headlines from this week. Enjoy!


The following articles were originally published on Monday, January 26, 2015

Palm oil may be single most immediate threat to the greatest number of species

Bornean orangutan photo

Bornean orangutan infant hanging from tree

Palm oil production drives the conversion of ecosystems such as rainforest and peatlands into plantations which reduces biological diversity. Many species in South East Asia are affected by palm oil production such as the charismatic orangutan.

View original article


Giant pandas don’t know their own faces

Infant giant panda, portrait

Apparently, giant pandas do not recognize themselves in a mirror. When confronted with their own image they reacted by showing defensive behavior.

View original article


The following articles were originally published on Tuesday, January 27, 2015.

How Ebola is killing the world’s ape population and what we can do to stop it

Juvenile eastern chimpanzee in tree

Western lowland gorilla silverback


The Ebola virus affects not only humans, but chimpanzees and gorillas as well. There appears to be a legitimate link between the increase of deforestation and the frequency of outbreaks.

View original article






President Obama Protects Untouched Marine Wilderness in Alaska

Portrait of bearded seal, head coloured by sediment

Bowhead whale surfacing

Atlantic walrus portrait

President Obama has declared 9.8 million acres in the wateroff of Alaska’s coast as off-limits to consideration for future oil and gas leasing. These waters are home to  bowhead whales walruses, and bearded seals.

View original article


The following articles were originally published on Wednesday, January 28.

Rare Sierra Nevada Red Fox Sighted In Yosemite National Park

Red fox in snow, side profile

Yosemite National park officials spotted a Sierra Nevada red fox in the park for the first time in almost 100 years. This subspecies of the red fox is extremely rare with less than 50 individuals believed to be in existence.

View original article


With local help, hawksbill sea turtles make a comeback in Nicaragua

Front on view of a hawksbill turtle

Hawksbill turtles have shown a 200 percent increase from 154 nests to 468 nests in the last 14 years. Poaching rates in Nicaragua’s Pearl Cays have decreased by more than 80 percent.

View original article


The following articles were originally published on  Thursday, January 29 .

Scientists discover that fish larvae make sounds

Five-lined snapper shoal

Researchers found that the larvae of grey snapper produce sound though at this time it is unclear as to the purpose of these sounds. Snapper are a large diverse group that includes the vibrantly colored five-lined snapper.

View original article

Mysterious megamouth shark washes ashore in the Philippines

Megamouth shark

A 15 foot adult male megamouth shark washed up on the shores of Barangay Marigondon in the Philippines on Wednesday. There are only 64 confirmed sightings of this mysterious and elusive shark.

View original article

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA


RSS feedArkive.org is the place for films, photos and facts about endangered species. Subscribe to our blog today to keep up to date!

Email updates

Sign up to receive a regular email digest of Arkive blog posts.
Preferred frequency:

Arkive twitter

Twitter: ARKive