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PORT ELIZABETH, SOUTH AFRICA — Wildlife conservation in South Africa encompasses two main realms, the government-run national parks service and private game reserves. Both require strong counter poaching programs to protect their animals but only government-owned parks can legally fly UAVs without special exception. To investigate the difference, we ventured nearly 1500km south from Kruger to the Amakhala Game Reserve in the Eastern Cape.
Similar to the U.S.’s Federal Aviation Administration (FAA), South Africa’s Civil Air Authority (CAA) has yet to produce the UAV regulations private game reserve owners need to legally fly UAVs for counter poaching. Like the U.S., the CAA says they will begin integrating UAVs into civil aviation by 2015. Owners are delaying investment in UAV technology as a result.
As with most things, when things go off-script, hilarity ensues. Having landed quadcopters in trees myself, I sympathized, but the errant landing invited some much needed comic relief to an otherwise business-as-usual demo.
When I visit a foreign country, I try to learn at least one line of a foreign language. The only requirement is that the line has to be either useful or humorous. The three main languages here are Zulu, Xhosa, and Afrikaans.
Using UAVs for inspiration the line I sought to learn (both useful and humorous) was:
Can I retrieve my unmanned aerial vehicle from your yard?
If you are a native speaker and have a better translation, please contribute in the comments.
kungaba i ukuthatha imoto yami unmanned ehamba emoyeni kusuka egcekeni lakho?
Kan ek haal my onbemande arial voertuig uit jou erf?
Xhosa was the most difficult. Based on what I was told, the language does not have a direct translation for an unmanned airplane, so the literal translation is something like: flying car without an engine
iuioto emoyeui (engaqulywa) ngaphandla (ngamuntu) kwenjuii
The terrain here is different than in the Skukuza region of Kruger. It’s cooler, less dry, more mountainous and there are smaller pockets of dense vegetation mixed with large open spaces.
The safaris here are getting us off-road and much closer to the wildlife. The scenery and the wildlife here is enchanting.
According to rangers, elephants and rhino are not particularly chummy. Norman, the elephant, passed uncharacteristically close to a group of rhino without incident. Rangers like Asher develop a strong connection to the animals so the potential for poaching raises the anxiety level for everyone.
“We spend a lot of time with them. They all have names. If we lose one (to poaching), it’s like losing a member of our family,” Asher said.