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

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-chimpanzees-hanging-in-branches

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

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-

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.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Jun 13, 2015

Questions about black rhino sent to Botswana

Black-rhinoceros-drinking

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.

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Article originally published on Sunday, Jun 14, 2015

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

Dusky-gopher-frog-metamorph

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.

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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

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.

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Article originally published on Tuesday, Jun 16, 2015

Mind meld: Social wasps share brainpower

Close-up-of-common-wasp-feeding

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”.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, Jun 17, 2015

Finding more ammo than animals in huge African rain forest

Forest-elephant-bull

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.

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Male western lowland gorilla

Article originally published on Thursday, Jun 18, 2015

All kangaroos are left-handed

Red-kangaroo-hopping

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.

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Male-female-and-young-eastern-grey-kangaroo

Male, female and young eastern grey kangaroo

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA

Jun 5

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, May 29, 2015

Invasive predators, deforestation driving Tasmanian parrot over the edge

Swift-parrot-in-branches

Swift parrot in branches

Research shows that 50.9 percent of female swift parrots nesting on the main island of Tasmania were killed by sugar gliders while incubating eggs. In addition, industrial logging is the principle cause of habitat loss in the swift parrot’s breeding range.

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Sugar-glider-on-branch-preparing-to-leap

Sugar glider on branch preparing to leap

Article originally published on Saturday, May 30, 2015

Wildlife agencies urge US to curb illegal ivory trade

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African elephant calf covered in mud

The World Wildlife Fund and African Wildlife Foundation both expressed that the United States should emulate China’s destruction of confiscated ivory. “Major ivory consuming countries hold the key to saving Africa’s elephants,” said Ginette Hemley, WWF senior vice president of wildlife conservation. Every year 25,000-30,000 African elephants are poached to supply the ivory trade.

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Article originally published on Sunday, May 31, 2015

Don’t try to “adopt” lost bear cubs, Oregon Wildlife officials warn

Yearling-American-black-bear-playing

Yearling American black bear playing

Oregon Wildlife officials urged the public to not take bear cubs home after an incident in which a bear cub was spotted begging for food and showed no fear of humans. Cubs, which have been “adopted” and then released into the wild never learn to care for themselves and become easy prey for hunters.

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Article originally published on Monday, Jun 1, 2015

“Purring” wolf spiders softly serenade mates

female-two-coloured-wolf-spider

Female two-coloured wolf spider

Male wolf spiders use vibrations to serenade females, but it only works if female wolf spiders can feel the vibrations. The courtship must occur on conductive surfaces such as dead leaves. Their sensitivity to vibrations might also help them avoid predators.

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Article originally published on Tuesday, Jun 2, 2015 

Pollution and climate change are deforming and killing Alaska’s frogs

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Wood frog tadpole

A recent study found that even a small amount of copper can have big consequences for amphibians such as the wood frog. The presence of copper in the environment altered the behavior of tadpoles so they spent more time near the surface of the water, which made them easier prey.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, Jun 3, 2015

Trainers banned from performing with ‘world’s loneliest orca’

Three-orcas-spyhopping

Three orcas spyhopping

Lolita, a wild-caught orca will no longer perform with her trainers. This move by the Miami Seaquarium comes after a decision by NOAA in February that determined that Lolita deserved the same protection under the Endangered Species Act (ESA) as her wild kin.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Jun 4, 2015

Seven tiny frog species found on seven mountains

Shield-toad

Shield toad (Brachycephalus pernix)

The seven frog species discovered in southeastern Brazil are all less than 1 cm long and belong to the genus Brachycephalus. The sensitivity of these frogs to their environment accounts for different species being found on different mountains. The most visible difference between these new species is the texture and color of their skin.

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Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

May 28

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, May 22, 2015

Octopus has the ability to see with its skin

Common-octopus

Common octopus

In a recent study, researchers found that octopus skin contains the same light-sensitive proteins found in eyes. The skin responds to light independently of the central nervous system, and detects changes or increases in light brightness.

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Article originally published on Saturday, May 23, 2015

Rescue workers try to save oil-soaked pelicans

Brown-pelican-on-water

Brown pelican on water

Rescuers have been able to rescue eight brown pelicans, but an intensive clean-up process awaits them. Pelicans must acclimate to their new surroundings for 48 hours and are afterwards extensively cleaned. They are then taken care of for two weeks after which they can return to the wild.

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Article originally published on Sunday, May 24, 2015

Synthetic horns may offer hope to endangered rhinos

Black-rhinoceros-anterior-view

Black rhinoceros

Currently, three of the five rhino species are critically endangered primarily due to poaching for their horns. A California biotech start-up, however has posed an unorthodox solution; creating synthetic rhino horns to offer consumers an ethical alternative. Conservationists are skeptical that synthetic horns will reduce demand for the real thing.

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Article originally published on Monday, May 25, 2015

Endangered saiga antelope mysteriously dying in vast numbers in Kazakhstan

Male-saiga-antelope-walking

Male saiga antelope

Around one-third of the saiga antelope population in Kazakhstan has mysteriously died. Their agriculture ministry hypothesizes that a pasteurellosis epidemic might be the culprit. As of yet the cause has not been officially determined.

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Article originally published on Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Mozambique loses almost 10,000 elephants in just five years

African-elephant-family

African elephant family

In 2010, Mozambique was home to approximately 20,000 elephants, but today it houses only 10,300. Almost all of the poaching occurred in the remote northern region of the country. Celso Correia, Mozambique’s new Minister of Land, Environment and Rural Development, has stated that tackling poaching is a top priority of the government.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, May 27, 2015

World’s rarest porpoise is dying to feed a black market in fish bladders

Vaquita-calf-at-the-surface

Vaquita calf at the surface

In a recent report, Greenpeace officials noted that vaquitas are being caught and drowned in illegal gillnets, which are meant to catch totoabas, another endangered species. The vaquita population was 200 in 2012, but now only 97 individuals remain.

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Article originally published on Thursday, May 28, 2015

An erupting volcano threatens one of the world’s rarest animals

galápagos-pink-land-iguana

Galápagos pink land iguana

Isabela Island, where a volcano is currently erupting, is the sole home of the Galápagos pink land iguana. Park officials are monitoring lava flows, which thus far have not affected the 200 iguanas on the island.

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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

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.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Apr 18, 2015

Approving a hunt is a misguided solution to bear problem

American-black-bear-cinnamon-morph-female-with-cinnamon-and-black-cubs

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.

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Article originally published on Sunday, Apr 19, 2015

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

Young-California-sea-lion

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.

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Article originally published on Monday, Apr 20, 2015

Kemp’s ridley sea turtles are mysteriously vanishing

Kemps-ridley-turtle-hatchlings

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

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Article originally published on Tuesday, Apr 21, 2015

Judge recognizes two chimpanzees as legal persons: a first

Eastern-chimpanzee-subordinate-pant-in-response-to-dominant-grunt

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.

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Article originally published on Wednesday Apr 22, 2015

Elephant contraception? How a vaccine is replacing sharpshooters

African-elephant-family

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.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Apr 23, 2015

Could Bees Be Addicted to Pesticides?

Honey-bee-asleep-during-cold-weather

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.

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Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

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