TSAVO WEST, Kenya – Pilots with the Kenyan Wildlife Service Airwing have participated in a five-day safety and proficiency training course supported by INTERPOL and the Lindbergh Foundation to maintain their existing skills and improve techniques in emergency maneuvers for their demanding work.
“Aerial patrols are critically important to wildlife protection in remote and difficult terrain,” said Peter Younger, Manager of INTERPOL’s OASIS (Operational Assistance, Services and Infrastructure Support) Africa wildlife crime programme. “Conspicuous and frequent aerial patrols over national parks have the same impact as police cars on the highways. They provide a strong deterrent, and their presence ensures environmental laws are respected.”
In 2008, the INTERPOL General Secretariat donated a Piper Super Cub to the Kenyan Wildlife Service Airwing, and the aircraft has been in regular patrol service ever since.
Aerial patrols provide a variety benefits to wildlife law enforcement agencies, such as helping to identify the locations of vulnerable herds of wildlife through census flights – so park managers can deploy ranger units to protect them. They are also used to air drop rations and supplies (including ammunition) to ranger units on extended patrols. They can land in small open areas to evacuate sick and injured rangers and are also used to provide security for tourists visiting Kenya’s national parks.
“Aerial patrols are highly effective at detecting the presence of poachers in remote wildlife habitats. Once the location of poachers is detected, the aerial patrols guide ranger units on the ground to intercept and arrest them. As with any other facet of law enforcement, safety is a very high concern for aerial patrol work,” said Peter Younger.
“A pilot’s skills must be maintained, so it is important for him or her to fly and train with a qualified instructor on a regular basis to ensure safety is not compromised.”
The Lindbergh Foundation is sponsoring internationally acclaimed pilots Ms Patty Wagstaff and Mr Rich Sugden, who ran all KWS Airwing pilots through “Basic Flight Review” and emergency maneuver training during the five-day course (25-29 January).
Typically, KWS Airwing pilots fly 30 metres (100 feet) off the ground at 130 km per hour (70 knots). If an emergency occurs in that situation, the pilot has little time to react and the response must be reflexive and immediate which requires intense and regular training.
With the support of INTERPOL and the Lindbergh Foundation, the Kenyan Wildlife Service continues to protect Kenya’s wildlife and natural resource heritage from illegal exploitation by environmental criminals.