Saving rhinos with anti-poaching drones in South Africa
The rhino remains a species under siege, as poachers target the beasts for their magnificent horns. We head to Kruger National Park, where poaching is so serious it can resemble a combat zone for Park Rangers tracking illegal hunters. There's hope unmanned aerial drones can save the rhinos from being killed.
• Rhino Facts -- WWF South Africa
With its huge, stocky frame and big protruding horn, the rhinoceros is truly a breath-taking animal. But it turns out that 2014 was a deadly year for the species.
On Thursday, the government of South Africa announced that a record-setting 1,215 rhinos were killed by poachers there in the past year. That's a 21 percent increase over 2013. And the survival of the species is at a critical juncture.
South Africa is home to 80 per cent of the world's remaining rhino population. According to the World Wildlife Fund, the rhino could face extinction within 20 years if the poaching numbers continue their current climb.
Nowhere is the situation being felt so keenly as in Kruger National Park.Two thirds of the rhinos killed by poachers last year were there. It's a vast, nearly 20,000 square kilometer park in the country's north-east corner.
Ken Maggs is the Chief of Staff of Rangers and Special Projects at Kruger National Park. He joined us from Skukuza, South Africa.
Thomas Snitch is a Senior Professor at the University of Maryland's Institute of Advanced Computer Studies. He has been studying the use of anti-poaching drones in Southern Africa. Thomas Snitch joined us from our studio in Washington D.C.
Bob Smith thinks using drones to fight poachers may be problematic. He is a Senior Research Fellow at the Durrell Institute of Conservation and Ecology at the University of Kent in the United Kingdom. He joins me know from Kent.
This segment was produced by The Current's Catherine Kalbfleisch.