2006 Whitley Award winner, Sergei Bereznuk who runs the Phoenix Fund in Russia, met with inspectors at the Land of the Leopard National Park to present the benefits of using a small drone to patrol the park. The inspectors are responsible for protecting the park’s Amur leopard population and hold quarterly meetings to evaluate their work under a special anti-poaching monitoring programme (SMART) with the support of the Phoenix Fund.

Sergei meets with inspectors of Land of the Leopard National Park

Sergei meets with inspectors of Land of the Leopard National Park

After the meeting, the inspectors went to see the drone in action, which flew over the local area recording footage and taking pictures at high altitude. The demonstration was a success, with the inspectors showing a keen interest in using this type of technology for future anti-poaching patrols.

Aerial shot taken from Sergei's new drone

Aerial shot taken from Sergei’s new drone

The next step for drone-use would be law-enforcement patrols with inspectors during which we will try to find poachers and reveal violations from air,” said Sergei Bereznuk. “The management of several nature protection agencies, namely Anyuisky National Park, Ussuriisky Nature Reserve and Inspection Tiger, also showed lively interest in this new tool helping to take a view over their territories from above. At Phoenix Fund we will continue this project and will test new devices to improve the effectiveness of anti-poaching patrols.

The Deputy Director for Security at the Land of the Leopard, Eugeny Stoma, recognised the advantages of using drones, particularly for monitoring the situation when leopards and tigers approach villages. “We are grateful to Phoenix Fund for such an opportunity. Using this quadcopter, we can monitor the movement of the animals from a distance without putting inspectors’ lives at risk,” he said. “The drones can also conduct surveillance in the winter when the tree leaves don’t hinder the view, and on rivers to see where poachers place nets.”

Video of the drone’s most recent flight can be found here