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Spying on Hippos with Drones to Help Conservation

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A drone is an effective tool for conservationists in Africa to monitor the hippo population from a safe distance.

Drones with cameras might be a nuisance to privacy in the suburbs, but in Southern Africa they are helping a University of New South Wales Sydney research team save the threatened hippo.

Credit: Victoria Inman

Researchers at the University of New South Wales (UNSW) in Australia are using drones to help conservation efforts for hippos.

The numbers of wild hippos are declining because of habitat loss and people hunting for meat and ivory, so monitoring the population is becoming increasingly important for conservation efforts.

Ground-based observation is unsafe because the hippo is one of the most dangerous animals in Africa.

The researchers compared hippo counts from drone footage to land counts at a lagoon in the Okavango Delta in northern Botswana over seven days, and found the drone method just as effective as land surveys in estimating hippo numbers.

UNSW's Richard Kingsford said drones "provide a viable alternative to land-based counts and have low impact on hippos, offering further opportunities to survey inaccessible areas and, just as critically, collect this information safely."

From University of New South Wales (Australia)
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Abstracts Copyright © 2019 SmithBucklin, Washington, DC, USA


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