Endangered animal species

Developing technology to combat sea turtle poaching in Southeast Asia with drones (UAVs)

Sea turtles are endangered across much of their range. Threatened by bycatch in fishing operations, by poachers, by climate change and by marine pollution, many populations cling precariously to survival.

Poaching of sea turtles in South East Asia remains rampant but today, instead of travelling with nets, poachers simply purchase stockpiled turtles from local fishermen who hide them on remote islands or up mangrove creeks. Because turtles need to breathe, poachers keep them either in locally-built rectangular fish cages made of floating drums and wood, with suspended nets in between, or tied/chained directly to the coral in shallow waters. Costs and resources necessary to survey this vast area are prohibitive to local enforcement agencies and logistically complex.

To prevent the expansion and continuation of these practices and to deter the opportunistic illegal local markets, the Marine Research Foundation is developing a monitoring system using Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs). The UAVs will be designed to fly over remote areas collecting data on floating cage structures or heat signatures of multiple turtles in shallow waters. Software can be developed to recognize these specific attributes.

Once the technology has been streamlined, in a subsequent phase of the project, MRF will provide the equipment and skills to those in government agencies to better tackle a critical sea turtle conservation challenge.

The project will be implemented in the Balabac Straits, straddling the Malaysia – Philippines border at the northern reach of Borneo. It is one of South East Asia’s sea turtle hotspots and hosts Critically Endangered hawksbill turtles (Eretmochelys imbricata) and Endangered green turtles (Chelonia mydas) that are targeted by vessels originating from China and Vietnam.

This project is partly funded thanks to the sponsorship of a generous donor. If you also wish to support initiatives towards threatened animal species conservation, click here.

Share this project on :
© 2014 Fondation EnsembleCreditsTerms of useCookiesFAQSitemapRSS