We want to equip rangers with the ultimate tool to fight back against wildlife crime – a ‘dragon’! These ‘dragons’ are autogyros that will allow rangers to scope out vast and seemingly inaccessible areas in minutes to beat the poachers at their own game.
Quiet and light aircraft, the ‘dragons’ fly safely at low speeds. They land and take off in an area the size of a small garden. They have been used for aerial surveillance in military operations. And they can carry a pilot and passenger/observer and technical equipment.
Born Free has teamed up with the Excalibur group of companies to launch Dragon GBT 1170 aircraft at Shamwari Private Game Reserve – the home of our big cat sanctuaries – in South Africa, and Garamba in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC).
“By working with Born Free, we have the ability to help totally reshape the effectiveness of aerial support to conservation,” explains Barry Jones, Managing Director of Chimera Aviation, part of the Excalibur group of companies.
“We are able to provide aircraft, training for pilots and engineers alike, and the management of flight operations from small to large scale. We use autogyros because they can be very capable, very reliable due to their simplicity and, of course, this also makes them easy to fly and maintain. With sensible management and training on top of this, we are able to create an incredible capability,” he adds.
Jones has extensive experience with autogyros. “I was introduced to autogyros almost 20 years ago when I was flying helicopters for the UK military,” he says.
“I was absolutely staggered by their capability and as my interest and experience with autogyros grew, I became more and more convinced of their capability and could see many a role for the aircraft. They are low cost to purchase and operate, simple to fly and incredibly capable.”
Though Born Free initially plans to launch the ‘dragons’ in South Africa and the DRC, ultimately we would like to roll out 10 autogyros to other African countries where we operate, including Kenya, Ethiopia and Zambia, within the next 12 months.
Jones has already seen their potential in the DRC. “I have just returned home from Garamba, an African Parks location, where I have written the control measures around the autogyro’s aircraft operations to assist in improving their efficiency, capability and above all, safety. We can create a revolution in aerial support to conservation.”
We estimate that for about £50,000 we can purchase a dragon, transport it to its location, and train a pilot.
It’s time to unleash the dragon. Can you help our brave rangers take to the skies and fight wildlife crime?