Air Shepherd is a program of the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, dedicated to sustaining the Lindberghs’ legacy of using technology to balance the effects of human development on the environment. Learn more at lindberghfoundation.org.
The extraordinary increase in elephant and rhino deaths threatens extinction. Ignorance, and economic and social pressures are fueling the slaughter of African elephants and rhino at extraordinary rates.
Illegal poaching: $70 billion dollars a year and growing. Elephants are slaughtered for their tusks, then their ivory is carved into trinkets. China and the U.S. lead the countries that are driving the demand for ivory tusks. A single tusk can be worth more than US$ 75,000.
Rhino horns are worth over $65,000 per kilo on the black market. Criminal gangs are involved as it’s worth more than gold. The skyrocketing values of tusks (up to US$ 150,000) and horns (as much as US$ 500,000) generate extraordinary profits.
At this rate, African elephants and rhinos will be extinct within 10 years
Elephant tusks and rhino horns flow from East African ports to Asia
Organized crime and terrorist groups are now actively supporting poaching because of the great amounts of money that are involved.
Illegal wildlife trade is one of the world’s most lucrative criminal activities. Well-organized syndicates operating as transnational criminal networks often participate in other illegal activities, including trafficking in narcotics and weapons. Some have links with terrorist networks.
The criminals are ruthless with hundreds of park rangers killed in the line of duty. This has left a great toll not only on the animals but also on the lives of surrounding villagers who are corrupted by the lure of big money.
The problem is new, and accelerating rapidly
Rhino horn powder. It’s what the newly wealthy and fashionable in Vietnam use to spice up their cocktail. It’s called “the drink of millionaires” and the “party drug of choice.” Some boast that they can drink all night and not be hung over because of rhino horn.
Vietnam’s thirst for powdered rhino horn is a new phenomenon. It didn’t exist 10 years ago. This isn’t based on an age-old tradition or eastern medicine. Opportunists making outrageous claims regarding the power of rhino horn have created a booming market based on ignorance and greed. The rapid increase in the Chinese middle class is fueling the huge demand for carved ivory.
Rhinos used to roam in the jungles of Vietnam.
But not one rhino is left
They have all been slaughtered for their horns, and the Javan Rhino is now extinct.
Surveillance Drones + Advanced Sensors + Ranger Teams
Rangers own the daylight. But by night, its a different story. Almost all poaching of big animals happens overnight, especially during full moons. Poachers gather intelligence about their prey’s whereabouts, and then – under cover of dark – they move in for the kill.
Here’s how we stop that
Just as an example, flying in one area where as many as 19 rhinos were killed each month, there have been no deaths – for six months. None at all.
The Air Shepherd approach is the only intervention that has been shown to stop poaching. With over 6000 flight hours, over 4000 missions and three countries, we have a demonstrable ability to put an end to poaching.
We are the only non-military operation that flies exclusively at night and beyond line-of-sight
The Air Shepherd program has four core elements.
1. Unmanned Aircraft
State-of-the-art drones that are battery operated and can fly for up to 5 hours
2. Airborne Sensors
Onboard control systems and sensors with capabilities tailored to the anti-poaching mission
3. Mobile Command Center
A technically sophisticated mobile operations base for drone control, video feed monitoring and ranger communications
4. Trained Operators
Highly trained drone pilots and sensor operators with strong piloting skills and the courage to operate in remote areas at night
Staying ahead of poachers with advanced technology
Air Shepherd is pushing the technology envelope on a number of fronts. Technologies we are actively incubating are listed below.
Air Shepherd’s success would not be possible without the support of our incredible partner ecosystem. Please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org if you are a business or non-profit and are interested in helping us. We would love to hear from you!