An american acrobatic pilot renowned for her skills at air shows is teaching advanced flying skills to Kenyan pilots to help them spot wildlife poachers. Patty Wagstaff has won three acrobatic flying championships. She also trains pilots and has been lending her time and expertise to wild elephant conservation.
Wildlife poachers have said the top deterrent to poaching wild animals is air patrols. Flying so low and at slower speeds to spot poachers is dangerous for pilots in Kenya who sometimes have only basic flying skills.
Their planes crash too regularly and they have been shot at by poachers. Wagstaff teaches them in week-long clinics, partly funded by the Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation. From her they learn techniques that reduce mistakes which too often lead to crashes. They love to fly and care about wildlife, so they are happy to take to the sky and spot poachers. Not all of them are thrilled to be taught by a woman who is so knowledgeable, due to cultural issues. She deals with the gender bias by understanding what tribes they come from, and being very patient. She said also, when in the air with a pilot who gives her pushback, she just flies them upside down for a bit.
Wild elephants have been poached in Kenya for their ivory going back a long time. She has been working with the pilots for six years to reduce and stop it. The pilots there are associated with the Kenya Wildlife Service. The poaching is getting worse. So what these pilots are doing is really important. Asian demand for ivory is fueling the poaching. In 1950 there may have been five million elephants in Africa. Now there are far fewer.
Image Credit: Wallygrom