Tanzania now bans private drones from overflying its national parks, cites security

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By ADAM IHUCHA, TEA Special Correspondent

Posted  Saturday, November 15   2014 at  19:06

In Summary

  • Tanzania has been under scrutiny over the commercial-scale slaughter of its elephants. Available data shows the country is losing 30 elephants a day, or nearly 11,000 a year.
  • Tanzania National Parks Authority believes poachers could use the gadgets for mapping where elephants and rhinos can be found.

Tanzania's national parks’ airspaces have been declared a no-drones flying zone in a bid to stem escalating poaching.

“As of November 6, 2014, the use of the unmanned aerial vehicles of different sizes for photo taking, filming and other purposes is not allowed in the national parks for security reasons,” said the Tanzania National Parks Authority (Tanapa) in a statement.

Though Tanapa does not go into details, it is believed poachers could use the gadgets for mapping where elephants and rhinos can be found.

Tanapa public relations manager Pascal Shelutete said there were concerns about the risks of flying unmanned aircraft over the parks.

“Until we determine an appropriate policy to guide drones usage and protect resources in the parks, we have restricted them,” he clarified.

This means operators of drones and unmanned aerial vehicles will not be allowed to fly them in Serengeti, Mount Kilimanjaro, Tarangire, Lake Manyara, Arusha, Gombe Stream, Katavi, Kitulo, Mahale, Mikumi, Mkomazi Ruaha, Rubondo Island, Saadani, Saa Nane Island and Udzungwa Mountain national parks.

“We ask all tour operators to notify their clients and assist in the compliance of this public notice. The same applies to all visitors intending to do filming in the parks,” said the statement.

Mr Shelutete said drones and UAVs are high-tech tools the officials are not conversant with.

“It is foreign operators only who currently know what they are doing with the devices, this is quite unacceptable,” he added.

Interest of the nation

The ban on drones is supported by Tanzania Association of Tour Operators chief executive Sirili Akko, who said it was in the best interest of the nation. 

“However, I challenge them to be well equipped technologically in a bid to identify and deal with such things without causing inconveniences to holiday makers,” Mr Akko said.

One UAVs operators, Mike Chambers, who has successfully used the machines for monitoring Tarangire National Park last month, also supports Tanapa’s stance, saying it is imperative to control the machines.

“In the Bathawks Company case, we had extensive discussions with Tanapa before we tested specific anti-poaching equipment. Tanapa can’t just allow anyone to fly any machine. The responsible way is to take control and only allow authorised activities,” Mr Chambers said.

However, the Tanzania Civil Aviation Authority (TCAA) said there are regulations for drone operators.

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