Contribution to the biodiversity conservation through anti-poaching drones

How to identify and fight against illegal unsustainable practices that affect biodiversity in protected areas such as poaching, uncontrolled bushfires, agricultural encroachments, unsustainable harvesting of Non Timber Forest Products, timber and fish overexploitation, etc.? Using unmanned aerial services, drones, this initiative contributes to biodiversity conservation in the W-Arly-Pendjary (WAP) parks, a complex of three protected areas that covers three different countries: Benin, Burkina-Faso and Niger.

The WAP complex counts nineteen ecological sites distributed in three protected areas. It represents 25% of the sub-regions savannah habitats, constitutes the most important remaining area for elephant conservation in Africa and protects more than 370 bird species, 94 insect species, 80 fish species and other various species of reptiles and amphibians (UNDP, 2004). The WAP is also crucial for the protection of the last Sahelian and Sudanese mammals’ population. More than 60 mammals have been identified including elephants (Loxodonta africana), giraffes (Giraffa camelopardalis), hippopotamuses (Hippopotamus amphibious), buffalos (Syncerus caffer), lions (Panthera leo), cheetahs (Acinonyx jubatus), bubals (Alcelaphus buselaphus major), African wild dogs (Lycaon pictus), olive baboon (Papio anubis), green monkeys (Cercopithecus aethiops), etc.

But many of these species are threatened due to the unsustainable practices in the region. Henschel (2014) identified West lions, cheetahs and African wild dogs as imperiled species in the region. Poor park management, prey decline are also critical factors that favor illegal unsustainable practices that affect the wildlife conservation.

The deficit of human resources capable to effectively manage protected areas in West Africa is a critical issue that also affects the sustainability of the areas under protection. Indeed new tools exist to manage protected areas and conduct ecological monitoring more efficiently, but these expertise are not available to those in charge of protected areas management in the region. This initiative tackles this issue in an innovative way.

it contributes to the conservation of the biodiversity in the WAP complex by training different stakeholders in the three countries (Benin, Burkina-Faso and Niger) on Geographic Information Systems (GIS) and on the use of drones to identify and prevent illegal unsustainable practices in the WAP.

More specifically this initiative will:

1-      Help train rangers in Benin, Niger and Burkina-Faso and also the students and staffs of the National School of Wildlife and Protected Area Management in Benin on GIS practices with open source software
2-      Encourage the use of drones for other purposes such as aerial census, impact of various factors (climate change, anthropogenic activities, etc.) on wildlife, vegetation, and others.