World Wildlife Fund counted saiga antelopes with ZALA UAS

WWF Russia together with ZALA AERO and Light Air Airlines have counted saiga antelope in state national park Stepnoi in Astrakhan region, Russia.

Unmanned aerial system ZALA 421-16E equipped with photo camera and thermal imaging camera was photo shooting the reserved area. Silent UAV was unnoticeable for the easily scared animal and did not trouble them. All previous attempts to count the antelope from vehicles or manned light airplanes failed because the animals started running about as soon as they heard the motor noise.
“This time we succeed,” – says Dmitriy Dobrinin, the head of the counting team. “Saiga antelopes are clearly seen on the aerial images, which we got more than 5 000. It will take like one month and a half to decipher them all and then we will define how many animals there are in our national park.”
“We would like to thank ZALA AERO for their good job, professional performance of flights ,” – said Dmitriy Gorshkov, Director of Biodeversity Conservation Program of WWF Russia.
Saiga antilope quantity is decreasing and critically endangered. The main reason – saiga horn is highly valued in the black-market. That is why poachers cruelly kill saiga males. For natural recovery there must be at least 10% of male animals in the population. But now the percentage is much less.
Aerial counting will define the exact quantity, estimate the age and gender composition of the population. It allows to track the animals migration paths and find their most popular locations in the area to make additional protecting infrastructure.
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