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Drone project works to stop animal poaching in Tanzania’s parks

lwishaw@thenewstribune.com

January 22, 2016 12:49 PM

Catching and stopping animal poaching is a top priority and passion project for Tom Lithgow and his partners at Bathawk Recon Limited. Based in Arusha, Tanzania, the partners saw a need for unmanned aerial vehicle surveillance that could get into Tanzania parks and stop ongoing illegal activities.

The drone can aid in catching illegal activity in real time — day or night — and scope out a larger area than park rangers are able to by foot, Lithgow said. In the past, larger aircraft alerted poachers and made it easier for them to cease activity and hide.

Trials in three Tanzania parks (Tarangire National Park, Selous Game Reserve and Mkomazi) to find the right aircraft to fit the concept were deemed successful, Bathawk partner Mike Chambers said in a press release. The company is working with the Tanzania National Parks Authority and Tanzania Private Sector Foundation to implement the program. Plans are to launch by February in Tarangire, Lithgow said.

They are in the funding phase now, Lithgow said, looking for more sponsors and investors. Individuals and investors can donate through bat-hawkrecon.com or its sister organization, Elephant Survival Organization (elephantsurvival.or.tz).

More investors will allow them to expand the program to other parks, such as Serengeti, Ngorongoro Crater and Kilimanjaro. About $1.5 million a year will be needed to keep the program running.

“Poaching takes no time off,” Lithgow said.

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