Posted on 16 May 2019
A team of rangers from Tanzania Wildlife Authority (TAWA) TAWA and Wildlife Management Areas (WMAs) have been trained on the use of drones to enhance natural resources conservation in Ruvuma Landscape.
Drones are a new technology that is gaining momentum in the field of conservation in Africa. Its high-quality cameras can take photographs and videos whilst in the air. Its live vision will allow the user to access even the most remote parts of land for biodiversity mapping, future programme planning and so on.
To harness the potentials of this technology in conservation of the Ruvuma Landscape, WWF Tanzania has facilitated Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) trainers-training, which includes photo (Aerial) interpretations.
Held at Mangaka, Nanyumbu District, the training equipped 19 rangers with skills to operate the drones, create image mosaics and geotagged (with location) images to mention a few.
WWF GIS Specialist Mr Langeni said the drones would be used as part of ongoing conservation programmes to cub natural resources degradations, not only searching for poachers, but also sign of poaching like camps, trails, farms, livestock, charcoal kiln, mining, lumbering, carcasses, fire, canoe, etc.
He added that upon completion of the training, it meant the rangers could now do their own high-resolution monitoring, adding value to foot/car patrols from planning to executions.
"We actually leave technology with them, we have brought the UAV's aircraft up with us and we do the training on those aircraft, so they are familiar with those aircraft before we leave and an important milestone, We have Champions of drone operations within TAWA" he went on to explain.
''We are giving the skills and enabling them to do things they otherwise would not have been able to do. The rangers are loving the technology and we are having really good feedback from the initial training we've done up there, Also, We trained the rangers to create drone images mosaics using Microsoft ICE (Image Composite Editor) from Microsoft Research
, this will add value in drone images(Aerial Photo) interpretations, especially in establishing poachers Modus of Operandi".
In near future, We do hope to create the database of drone patrol images(Aerial), smartphone geotagged (with location) pictures and camera traps images to harness the power of Artificial Intelligence (Machine Learning/Deep Learning) to learn from images to establish and understand not only patterns of human activities but also ecosystem dynamics for better management and decision making of natural resources.
The Ruvuma Landscape Coordinator, Mr James Nshare , said the training puts rangers at the forefront of science.
"At the moments it is important to harness technology and work on innovative ways to promote conservation of our natural resources. The rangers work will continue to be difficult and we will continue to lose habitats and species, unless we invest in time and money saving technologies available to us like this drone.
Mr Nshare (Ruvuma Landscape Coordinator) said the use of drones for surveillance in Ruvuma Landscape was the way forward and hoped to expand the training to other areas.
"The rangers are excited to have access to the drones and have quickly picked up the skills needed to operate them. WWF will continue to facilitate rangers with training how to fly the UAVs, thereby putting the technology in to use for conservation, which may eventually lead to the creation of well- technologically equipped surveillance teams. This really sticks with our goals we have for the rangers," he said.
Speaking at the training rangers appreciated the use of a drone to assist them in their work, especially the simple fact of having an instant aerial view of their surrounding area wherever they are and on-site creation of drone mosaics identify any poachers patterns.
Should the training yield consistent positive results, simple, low-cost drone technology could very well compliment on going conservation measures in the landscape.