The illegal poaching of wildlife in Africa is one of the biggest threats to the animals that live there. According to the African Wildlife Foundation, more than 35,000 elephants are killed every year by poachers looking to harvest their ivory tusks, and since 1960 the black rhino population has dropped by a stunning 97.6%. As this infographic shows, most of those animals are killed so that their horns can be sold in China for use in traditional medicines. Medicines that don't actually treat the ailments they claim to.
These activities have put a number of species in dire jeopardy, and we could see some of these creatures actually disappear from the planet in our lifetimes.
How Are Conservationists Fighting Back?
But conservationists aren't taking these threats lying down, and are actually using a host of methods to combat the poachers and protect Africa's precious wildlife. For instance, the Air Shepard program, sponsored by the Lindbergh Foundation, is using drones to patrol key areas at night. The technique has proven to be so successful that poaching has all but stopped in places where the UAV's are being employed.
Any traveler who has visited Africa, and witnessed the spectacular wildlife there first hand, will tell you how amazing these creatures are. Most would love to help those animals in any way possible and take steps to end poaching. The problem is, the opportunities to do something about those activities don't come along very often and most of us can only take action through ancillary organizations. But, recently I've come across an amazing opportunity that combines travel to Africa and the chance to actually do something in the battle against poachers.
An organization called Gyrocopters Kenya uses those unique flying machines much the same way Air Shepard uses drones. The team makes regular flights over Kenya's Tsavo National Park region to search for wildlife and spot illegal hunters in the area. The gyrocopters are flown by trained pilots who have years of experience on the aircraft, but they also need co-pilots to help in their anti-poaching operations. That's where you and I come in.
Each month, the Gyrocopters Kenya team allow one person to visit their facility and join them in their efforts to end poaching. These visitors become honorary co-pilots who serve as spotters in the air who record the location of animals that they spot using GPS coordinates. Those locations are then passed on to local park rangers, who then know where to go to protect those creatures and look for potential poachers.
The Gyrocopters Kenya squad patrols an area that is larger than 500,000 acres of remote Kenyan bushland, which requires them to make two flights per day, six days a week. Those flights are typically 2-3 hours in length, and take place at 6 AM -8 AM and again at 4 PM - 6 PM. The volunteers who come to join the effort will get to take part in those flights and help protect the wildlife from poachers.
This volunteer travel experience costs $1890 U.S., which includes all costs to the traveler in Kenya, a meet and greet at the Mombasa International Airport, transfers to and from that airport, and 7 nights stay at the Gyrocopter Kenya's guest house. All food and non-alcoholic drinks are also included, as are cook and housekeeping services. International airfare is extra.
As mentioned, only one person each month is invited to go to Kenya and join the team. That means there are 12 opportunities to fly with the Gyrocopter team each year. That makes this a very exclusive travel opportunity indeed. If this sounds like something you would like to do, potential co-pilots are encouraged to contact Keith Hellyer, who serves as the Chief Pilot and Director of the project. His email address is firstname.lastname@example.org. He will be able to provide more details about the program, what's included in the price, and when travelers can join him in Kenya.