South Africa said Tuesday that it would use a state-of-the-art surveillance aircraft to monitor its rhino population in an attempt to curb rampant poaching.
The Seabird Seeker plane will patrol over Kruger National Park, which is located on the border with Mozambique and is home to two-thirds of South Africa’s rhinos.
The aircraft would use surveillance equipment, including infrared detection technology, “making it very difficult for poachers to hide,” said Ivor Ichikowitz, who heads the Ichikowitz Family Foundation as well as the Paramount Group defense and aerospace company, in a statement. He donated the plane to the South African government.
By the end of this year, it is estimated that South Africa will have lost some 650 rhinos to poaching, to satisfy the demand in Asia. In 2012 to date, 598 rhinos have been killed, 364 of them in the Kruger National Park alone, according to the South African National Parks.
“While the combination of criminally slaughtered rhinos and natural mortalities has not reached a point of negative growth, we are seeing definite signs of a decrease in growth numbers,” said David Mabunda, the head of the parks system.
Rhino horns are a pricey item used frequently in traditional Asian medicine, but there have been numerous studies showing they provide no medicinal value.
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