The GRI plane hit the skies with our in-house pilot and Resource Protection Director, James Amoore.
We are incredibly excited about the uplift that the Aerial Support Unit (ASU) will provide in reinforcing Release Area security, both supporting Law Enforcement operations, and by providing monitoring and surveillance for the elephants so that we can all sleep a little easier. We could not do this without the support and generosity of David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation and Olsen Animal Trust, who equipped the ASU with its first plane, as well as David Shepherd Wildlife Foundation's continuing operational support.
Aerial patrols serves to guide law enforcement activity onto possible poaching activity, as well as acting as a very visual deterrent to any other illegal activity. During the rainy seasons, many areas become difficult or even impossible to access by foot or vehicle, so having this “eyes in the sky” capability provides an enormous uplift to law enforcement efforts in the Kafue National Park and the GMA's. The priority area of focus being the Release Area for the orphaned elephants in the release herd.
The Aerial Support Unit (ASU) provides huge increase in support across the three core thematic areas for GRI.
1. Community Outreach
Mapping hippo pods in order to advise fishermen of hotspots, mapping farms and corrals to provide situational awareness on activities, providing early warning of elephants on their way to raid crops.
2. Wildlife Rescue
We will be able to use the ASU to track elephants whose collars have developed faults, as well as providing support to darting operations (locating target elephants).
3. Resource Protection
Providing eyes in the sky to overwatch ground operations, providing a deterrent effect in areas which are difficult to access, checking for signs of poaching activity (camps, tracks, carcasses, fires)
GRI's ASU has already responded to an elephant and her 4-month calf who is currently stranded on one of the islands due to the high water of Lake Itezhi-Tezhi. Both mother and calf are in good condition, however the calf is still too young to make the trip off the island, making them easy targets for poachers. The ASU will be monitoring their security until the water recedes or the calf is old enough to swim. Anyone thinking of taking advantage of the situation may be less inclined to do so if they see regular aerial patrols over the island.
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With your support... we can continue to support Rangers on the front line of conservation.