High tech is now entering the fight against poaching in Kenya as the Ol Pejeta Conservancy has announced they raised the funds needed to buy an UAV, aka Drone, to have eyes in the skies over the sprawling 90.000 hectares estate, which serves as a combined cattle ranch and a wildlife conservancy.
The conservancy, home to over 100 rhinos including four prized Northern White Rhinos given to them for breeding by a Czech zoo three years ago, just recorded the wettest year since they started keeping weather records and the lush vegetation attracted a lot more game to the estate.
The published game count for 2012 stood at over 13.000 animals, including over 300 elephant, over 200 giraffes, more than 4.400 zebras – and interesting here THREE species, Burchell’s Zebra, the Gravy Zebra and hybrids only found here where the two species’ ranges overlap – besides plenty of plains game. Predator concentration is among the highest recorded anywhere in Kenya, including a pack of wild dogs, aka hunting or painted dogs, lions, leopards, cheetah, hyenas and smaller predator cats and foxes.
Awarded the ‘Conservancy of the Year 2012’ accolade, Ol Pejeta truly constitutes THE complete safari experience in one place, in the opinion of this correspondent perhaps only rivaled by the greater Meru Conservation Area, and yet not overrun by tourists, though a well known ‘secret’ among Kenya’s expatriate community.
The new of the first drone now being introduced by Ol Pejeta underscores the conservation commitment the managers of the conservancy have displayed for years, and it is hoped that combined with a rapid deployment unit of rangers, security officers and volunteers, supported by Nanyuki based Tropic Air’s helicopters, this will prevent the poaching now seen escalating in other parts of Kenya. Although the drone is not armed, in the eyes of some conservationists a serious omission – though this poses both legal as well as other questions – the nonstop surveillance will be able to direct ground and airborne teams to any given location, where suspicious movement of cars and people is being spotted. A control room at the conservancy headquarters will direct the flight path, surveillance zones and closer attention to suspect sightings on a 24/7 basis. At the cost of almost 4 million Kenya Shillings the investment is seen as justified and other conservancies in Kenya are already said to consider taking the same steps to prevent South Africa’s rhino poaching wave reaching this part of East Africa too.
Visit www.olpejetaconservancy.org for more information on the work done on Ol Pejeta, the accommodation available, like the Pelican House, the camps and lodges found, where to eat as a casual day visitor and much more.