The Uganda Wildlife Authority-UWA has adopted the use of drones to fight poaching and improve on monitoring of Rwenzori Mountains National Park.
The Smart Monitoring and Reporting Tool – SMART technology will facilitate UWA to carry out activities like ecological monitoring, topographical mapping and detection of disaster and deforestation.
The drones will also help in identifying illegal activity hotspots, enable real-time reporting of encounters in the park-like new and endangered species of wildlife, and support the easy generation of monitoring reports by rangers.
Nelson Enyagu, the warden in charge of Ecological Monitoring and Research Rwenzori Mountains National Park explains that initially, they were using the Management Information System – MIS technology which had several challenges.
He says the system could not enable the use of photos in capturing information and could not support sharing of information in real-time.
Enyagu says that the rangers will now be using uniquely designed smartphones to capture information and a drone camera which has a capacity of flying over the park for up to two hours without having to recharge its batteries.
The drones, M300 RTK model will be able to show which areas in the park are being degraded, where certain species of wildlife are concentrated and what they are doing, and detect poachers among other things.
George Habaasa, one of the rangers notes that for the nine years he has been in the field collecting data about the park, it has been a challenge and is hopeful the new technology will help solve several problems.
For instance, he says that some areas in the park have been hard to reach and getting information about them had remained a challenge while poachers had also consistently killed elephants for ivory and hippos, rhinos and buffaloes for meat.
Daniel Ndizihiwe, the manager for Wildlife and Protected Areas at World Wide Fund-WWF for Nature in Uganda says they bought the technology and tools for UWA at a cost of about 300 million shillings. He says they want the park management to make timely and informed decisions for its sustainable conservation.
Ndizihiwe says that 60 rangers have been trained how to use the technology, adding that once it’s found efficient, they will fund its usage in other parks in the country.
Rwenzori Mountains National Park has Africa’s third highest mountain peak. It is also a UNESCO world heritage site and is home to some of the endangered wildlife species in the country. They include the three-horned chameleons, one-horned chameleons, Rwenzori side-stripped chameleons and green viper snakes.
The others are mahogany trees, chimpanzees that are being hunted for meat and traditional medicines, and birds that include the Rwenzori double-collared sunbird, Blue-headed sunbird and Purple-breasted sunbird.