Drones Sound Like Bees To Wild Animals

Our links to stories in Cool Green Science have been among the most abundant of all our sources. This may be due to the publication’s commitment to finding stories that highlight positive change in our approach to understanding, respecting, protecting the environment. Here is another:

Gustavo Lozada wants to change your mind about using drones around wildlife.

Lozada, technology manager for The Nature Conservancy in Colorado, knows that many people think that increasing drone use will only harass and terrify wild animals. He also knows it doesn’t have to be that way, and that drones can be a really important tool in wildlife research and protection. The videos in this blog, he hopes, will show that drones do not have to disturb the peace.

To be clear, Lozada knows that much drone use is detrimental to wildlife. He points to a recent viral video that showed a small cub trying repeatedly to scale slick, snowy slopes to reach its obviously distressed mother. The video was widely shared as showing the cub’s pluck and determination.

But researchers and animal lovers questioned that narrative, as reported in a National Geographic story titled “Viral bear video shows dark side of filming animals with drones.” The article notes that the whole reason the cub found itself in its predicament was likely because it was terrified of the drone filming it.

With drones becoming ever less expensive and more user friendly, many fear that a horde of amateur wildlife filmmakers will attempt to make their own viral videos, causing widespread disturbance in natural areas around the globe.

But it’s not just the hobbyist with a store-bought drone to blame. Some of the most dramatic wildlife footage in nature documentaries shows herds of wildlife galloping across plains and kicking up water as they cross streams.

“Those animals are running for their lives,” says Lozada. “Those animals are running to exhaustion. That dramatic drone footage could kill them.”

A Protocol For Responsible Wildlife Research

Lozada has developed protocols so that wildlife is not disturbed when the drone is overhead. He began by working with Conservancy colleague Chris Pague to obtain drone footage of bison living on the Zapata Ranch, a Conservancy project in southern Colorado.

“Honestly, I am not proud of that first footage,” says Lozada. “As drone footage goes, it is not bad. When I look at it now, I see the bison are disturbed. A lot of documentaries want to use it, because it’s what they expect. But it violates the protocols I have since developed.”

Lozada knew that it was only natural for animals to run from drones; after all, it’s an unfamiliar, loud object in the sky. “Drones sound similar to bees,” says Lozada. “And wild animals don’t want to be around bees.”

As such, he developed a protocol for familiarizing the animals with the drone sound before they saw it. It is not a fast process, but it’s a necessary one. “I introduce the sound to the animals very far away,” Lozada says.

Eventually, he moves slowly closer, making sure never to disturb the animals. By the time he gets close enough for footage, the animals do not pay attention to the drone…

Read the whole story here.

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