The new decade started out with much promise for Africa ASAP. We were invited to present our technology to the Smithsonian, and the University of Florida, and we were approached by organizations that are interested in using our technology to protect Kruger, parts of Botswana, and the Amazon Basin.
In February I was in Silicon Valley with members of our team that are building a hydrogen powered drone that will use our airship as a base that can fly in to prevent negative animal human conflict (for example, herding elephants away from farmers’ fields.)
And then the pandemic hit. The institutions we were speaking with shut down and meetings with private donors were cancelled. Grants we expected to receive in May and June were understandably diverted to assist with the pandemic. Like many of you, the pandemic caught us off guard as the global economy crashed with so many hurting.
The pandemic resulted from the deep injustice of what we are doing to our natural world and it has unleashed a perfect storm that is brewing in Africa, a storm that threatens to devastate African wildlife. This is exactly the type of challenge that Africa ASAP is designed to meet.
Tourism in the eastern and southern parts of the continent is based on Africa’s iconic wildlife and is codependent on conservation. Conservation depends upon tourism revenue to justify government expenditures to hire rangers and park personnel. The global pandemic has collapsed the tourism industry with unemployment in this sector is approaching 100%. To make matters worse, the presence of tourists and their guides that once played major role in keeping poachers away are now gone.
Desperate people are being driven to take part in the $22 billion illicit trade in wildlife trafficking. On April 24th twelve park rangers, a staff driver, and four civilians were brutally murdered by armed militia next next to Virunga, a World Heritage site and home to the last mountain gorillas. The United Nations warns us that the pandemic will cause global famines of 'biblical proportions.” As the humanitarian crisis unfolds, ranks of hungry people will enter protected lands to hunt for food. The bushmeat trade will again thrive, undoing decades of conservation work.
In the past Parks have tried to protect these vast areas by deploying drones, helicopters, airplanes, and satellites with limited success. None of these technologies were designed with the express objective to protect vast, remote parks at landscape scales and to do this with limited funds. Between 2010 and 2012 Africa lost 100,000 elephants. In 2014 Ruaha National Park alone had 11,600 elephants slaughtered. We cannot allow this to continue.
We must take a risk, to do something different, something new, something bold, something big. AfricaASAP can stop these killings before they take place. We can do this because our system incorporates the very best of what these platforms have to offer, and then some. It was designed with one purpose and one purpose alone, to protect all life in these vast remote ecosystems.
As we work our way through this global shutdown we are emerging with a new sense of urgency. In the coming weeks I will share with you our plan to launch our airship in 2021. I will also let you know how you can help. In the meantime stay safe and vigilant.
For the elephants,
Note: Please join us in signing the attached petition calling on world governments to take urgent action to prevent the next pandemic by permanently ending the commercial trade and sale in markets where terrestrial wild animals are sold for consumption. https://endthetrade.com/