On Tuesday, Google announced a $5 million grant to the World Wildlife Foundation (WWF) to pay for a fleet of drone aircraft. The drones will be used to track illegal poachers in Africa who are hunting endangered rhinos, elephants, and tigers and killing them for their ivory horns, tusks, and eyes, respectively.
Poaching has been a serious problem for years, and one of the many challenges faced by law enforcement is the expansiveness of areas in which it happens. There weren’t enough resources to survey in person all of the areas where Elephants and Rhinos are in danger.
Mother Jones quoted Ian Morrison, a WWF spokesman, as saying that the grant will have a huge impact. "The poachers and the crime syndicates that fund them are getting more and more sophisticated,” he said, “and it's time for us to step up our game too, and level the playing field."
The word “drone” has negative connotations, associated most often with the controversial and much-reviled military kind. But with this grant, Google and the WWF have found a way to use the technology to make the world a better place. The poacher-tracking drones won’t shoot or kill anyone, but will be equipped with cameras so that rangers can spot poachers ahead of time and intervene before they kill animals.
The grant is part of Google’s Global Impact Awards program, providing millions of dollars to fund nonprofit tech innovators.
“Technology has dramatically improved our lives — from the speed at which we get things done to how we connect with others,” the Google statement about the program says. “Yet innovations in medicine, business and communications have far outpaced tech-enabled advances in the nonprofit sector.”
The help hasn’t come a moment too soon, with more and more species that attract poachers going from endangered to extinct. It’s too late for the Northern White Rhino, believed to be extinct in the wild, with only a few alive in captivity, but hopefully with the help of Google and the WWF other endangered species will be spared or even replenished.