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

May 8

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 1, 2015

Bat wings use sensory cells to change shape mid-flight


Bechstein’s bat

The hair on a bat’s wings has receptors that fire messages to the brain, which allow them to slow down quickly and make tight turns. In most mammals, pathway messages from the forelimbs travel to the neck, in bats however, messages travel to both the neck and the trunk.

View original article

Article originally published on Saturday, May 2, 2015

Malnourished sea lion found hidden under car in San Francisco


Young California sea lion

A sea lion pup was coaxed from its hiding spot through the efforts of police and animal rescue crews. Apparently this is the second time that this particular pup has been found wandering the streets. Diminishing food sources, appear to be one of the reasons that several pups have been found malnourished and sick.

View original article

Article originally published on Sunday, May 3, 2015

Starfish suffer mysterious and gruesome demise along west coast


Crown of thorns starfish

From southern Alaska down to Baja California, sea stars have been dying in droves. The cause seems to be a poorly understood wasting disease known as sea star associated densovirus.  Encouraging though, is the news that baby sea stars have been found along the coast in some of the affected areas.

View original article

Article originally published on Monday, May 4, 2015

Wolves and coyotes feel sadness and grieve like humans


Eurasian wolf

Author Marc Bekhoff describes how a pack of wolves lost their spirit and playfulness after the loss of one of their female members. He also hypothesizes that similar to dogs, wolves and coyotes can experience physiological disorders.

View original article


Adult coyote

Article originally published on Tuesday, May 5, 2015

30 illegal orangutan pets seized in West Kalimantan


Juvenile southern Bornean orangutan

Thirty orangutans being kept as pets have been seized and placed in a rehabilitation center. Orangutans usually live with their mother until the age of seven or eight. The orangutans are learning to fend for themselves so they can be released into the wild.

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 Article originally published on Wednesday, May 6, 2015

New species of diving beetle found living in isolation in Africa


Great diving beetle

A scientist has discovered a new species of diving beetle on the outskirts of Cape Town, South Africa. It has no direct relatives and has been placed in its own genus with its scientific name being Capelatus prykei. Its closest relatives are diving beetles found in the Mediterranean and New Guinea.

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Article originally published on Thursday, May 7, 2015

New species of marine worm discovered on the Antarctic Deception Island


Peacock worm

The new species (Parougia diapason) belongs to a group of marine worms that commonly occur in marine seabeds rich in organic matter. The species was found in the bones of a common minke whale.

View original article


Common minke whale

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

Apr 10

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 3, 2015

‘Lazy’ sea lion sons rely on mothers milk while diligent daughters learn to hunt


Galapagos sea lion pup

For the first two years of their life, male Galapagos sea lions barely make any effort to hunt. Meanwhile, many young females hunt at sea even before their mothers wean them.

View original article

Article originally published on Saturday, Apr 4, 2015

How do hummingbirds fly in wind and rain?


Ruby-throated hummingbird male feeding on flower

Researchers placed hummingbirds within a wind tunnel to observe their response to different wind speeds. They twist their bodies to accommodate the airflow which expends more energy, but allows them to continue flying in place.

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Article originally published on Sunday, Apr 5, 2015

Florida wildlife officials ask people not to ‘help’ gopher tortoises


Gopher tortoise in burrow entrance

The Florida Fish and Wildlife Department urged people to not help gopher tortoise hatchlings to the ocean, since they cannot swim.  The announcement was made after three instances occurred of people trying to help.  The public was reminded that not all turtle species can swim.

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Article originally published on Monday, Apr 6, 2015

Aceh’s purge of illegal oil palm at 3,000 hectares and counting


Young Bengal tiger

Oil palm plantations are being removed to protect the people from ecological disaster. The plantations lie within the protected Leuser Ecosystem (KEL), the last place where the Sumatran rhino, elephant, tiger, and orangutan coexist in the wild.

View original article


Indian elephant bull

Article originally published on Tuesday, Apr 7, 2015

Overfishing leads to crashes in sardines and other forage fish


Pacific sardine

Forage fish are essential food for bigger predators thus playing a vital role within the ecosystem. U.S. fisheries managers are deciding whether to shut down fishing for Pacific sardines since stocks are declining.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, Apr 8, 2015

The truth about magpies


Magpie stealing partridge egg

Magpies have a notorious reputation for being thieves of shiny baubles and preying upon the defenseless chicks and eggs of songbirds.  The reality however, is that they are interested in objects, their shininess is irrelevant. While they may prey on songbirds, there is no evidence to suggest they cause population crashes.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Apr 9, 2015

Farmers urge return of jaguars to protect crops


Female jaguar resting in vegetation

White-lipped peccaries damage farmers’ crops in Brazil as their populations grow and farmers are considering alternatives to hunting. One option is maintaining well-connected jaguar habitat on their agricultural properties thereby allowing jaguars to naturally control peccary populations.

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White-lipped peccaries caught on camera trap

Enjoy your weekend!

William Lazaro, Arkive Social Media Intern, Wildscreen USA 

Mar 20

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, Mar 13, 2015

New wormy amphibians discovered in Southeast Asia


Sagalla caecilian head detail

Three new caecilian species have been discovered in Vietnam and Cambodia. Southeast Asia currently hosts about 15% of all known caecilians.

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Article originally published on Saturday, Mar 14, 2015

Wildlife: Sandhill cranes migrating through Colorado


Sandhill crane calling in flight

As they make their way toward Canada about 25,000 sandhill cranes might pass through Colorado.  Cranes are among the oldest living species with fossil records going back 9 million years.

View original article

Article originally published on Sunday, Mar 15, 2015

 Rehabbed bay area bobcat released back into the wild


Three week old bobcat kitten vocalizing

Last fall a 3 pound juvenile bobcat was found seriously injured near Brentwood by a rancher. Last week the bobcat was released after being rehabilitated and her weight doubled to a healthy 6 pounds.

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Article originally published on Monday, Mar 16, 2015

 Switch off the lights for bats


Leisler’s bat

Bat activity is generally lower in street-lit areas as opposed to dark ones, a new study found. This overturns a previous assumption that street lights benefit bats because insects congregate around them.

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Article originally published on Tuesday, Mar 17, 2015

 ‘Basically they just fell out of the sky’: 2,000 snow geese found dead in Idaho


Snow goose on tundra with chicks

Idaho’s Department of Fish and Game announced on Monday that 2,000 snow geese were found dead and they suspect that avian cholera might be the cause. Officials disposed of the bodies to ensure that the disease does not spread to other bird species.

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Article originally published on Wednesday, Mar 18, 2015

 Hear that? Orangutans use hands to amplify calls


Juvenile southern Bornean orangutan

When orangutans use alert calls to warn others about predators, they sometimes cup their hands around their muzzles to make their calls louder and deeper. Changing sounds by using a part of your body was formerly thought to be a behavior unique to humans.

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Article originally published on Thursday, Mar 19, 2015

Dottyback’s deadly colour trick revealed


Narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth

The dusky dottyback can change the color of its body to match the species of reef fish it is hunting. The art of mimicry is well known in the natural world with species using ruses to catch, mate or avoid others such as the narrow-bordered bee hawk-moth that resembles a bee.

View original article


Female common carder bumblebee feeding from flower


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.

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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.

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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.

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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


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