The Kenyan government has done itself and wildlife protection in the country no favor when in a knee-jerk reaction not too different from the recent FCO anti-travel advisory, it banned the use of UAVs aka drones to survey conservancies and private game reserves, citing once again obscure security reasons for the ban.
A regular conservation source from Nairobi was swift to denounce the decision as paranoid and only benefitting poachers: “Like the Brits overreacted two weeks ago with their ban on travel to parts of the coast, so did our government here. We were all waiting to see how the trials on Ol Pejeta were going before deciding to move towards such surveillance equipment ourselves, but from what we hear, government has suddenly pulled the plug on this. I have no idea how much money Ol Pejeta has invested in this technology, but the fact that KWS [Kenya Wildlife Service] also talked of going that way and that other conservancies were closely watching until initial results were out. speak for itself. The only beneficiaries of such a ban can be poachers who must be celebrating this brainless decision by government. First, I know that Ol Pejeta has had some form of clearance already from the military of the Nanyuki air base for the initial trials they did. Secondly, I am sure that the KCAA [Kenya Civil Aviation Authority] has also been involved, because those things crisscross the airspace over the conservancy and so do light aircraft, so there must be measures in place to make sure there are no incidents. But most important, it is only through the use of modern technology that intrusions can be detected in a timely manner and measures taken to intercept poachers, follow them, and corner them.
“This stinks to heaven like Kimayo’s directive [Kenya’s top cop who in a shoot from the hip banned tinted windows on all cars only to have to withdraw the order shortly afterwards under the threat of legal action] to ban tinted windows. Security will be enhanced when responsible organizations use such technology, not put at risk. Whoever took that decision should be sacked for aiding and abetting poaching which the use of such contraptions [that] was to reduce and prevent. The things done under the pretext of security in our country are making me shake my head. One wonders if those civil servants actually know how what they are doing or just blunder their way from one to the next.”
In a wider context, this decision right now means that with the left hand, government is beating its right hand and vice versa, as the poaching crisis is ongoing and all hands are needed on deck, aided by the latest technology and not deprived of it because a faceless bureaucrat issued an order banning the use of airborne UAV surveillance. Flying light aircraft for aerial surveillance, while an option, is, however, very expensive and requires spotters besides the pilot in the aircraft, while night surveillance with light aircraft is literally impossible. Drones, however, can fly both during the day and at night, are cost effective to operate, and are controlled by trained personnel with the option of government actually attaching staff to the control rooms to ensure that nothing untoward happens with the UAVs, not that such a scenario is even remotely an option considering the parties involved.”
The verdict for now surely must be that the Kenyan government shot itself in the foot again, and one wonders just how many more bullets that foot can take.