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Drones help prevent rhino, elephant poaching

Unmanned aerial vehicles trackked rhinos and elephants and could help save some herds from being killed by poachers.

Drones might soon save the lives of rhinos and elephants in Africa, a new report says.

Namibia's Ministry of Environment and Tourism, along with the World Wildlife Fund, have partnered to invest in drones that can track rhino and elephant herds, the organizations told New Scientist for a story published Friday. Google helped fund the drone research, which was conducted in November. Through the use of the drones, the researchers were able to follow herds and alert law enforcement in the event the animals were being targeted by poachers.

The tests went well, according to the WWF, and will now be rolled out across Namibia to stop poachers from illegally killing elephants and rhinos. According to New Scientist, the illegal poaching generates $10 billion in revenue each year for criminals. Their efforts are also thinning out elephant and rhino populations, putting the entire ecosystem at risk.

Drones, which have most commonly have been associated with military use, are starting to find more commercial and civilian uses. Amazon late last year, for example, announced that it was testing drones to deliver packages to customers.

Although the drone program should help prevent poaching in Namibia, the issue is widespread across Africa. It's not clear whether a similar program will be rolled out elsewhere across Africa.