taking to the sky
On the 31st of April 2017 WCS Congo took to the air on its first surveillance flight. Supported by the Wildcat Foundation and US Fish & Wildlife Service, and with oversight from the WCS Aviation Program, the 6-seater Cessna 206 is latest asset to WCS Congo’s anti-poaching arsenal.
Jean Pierre Sagette, an experienced pilot with more than ten years of flying experience in Africa, is the newest member of the WCS Congo family. From his last position piloting charter planes in Mozambique, Jean Pierre is applying skills to the conservation realm for the first time.
The plane, currently based out of the airport of Ouesso, will eventually be positioned at the logging town of Kabo, just 30 minutes by road from the Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park’s headquarters in Bomassa. Rehabilitation of an existing airstrip is underway.
The first surveillance flight offered a glimpse into the future potential of this asset for monitoring forest clearings, rivers and logging roads for illegal poaching activity. Nouabalé-Ndoki National Park, the primary focus for WCS Congo’s aviation programme, is subject to ongoing elephant poaching. The landscape to protect from these incursions is vast, >6,000km2, and the mobility and speed of aerial surveillance will add a whole new dimension to the Park’s management.
Flying from 500 feet, the team aboard were initially surprised at the clarity of which the understory and forest floor can be seen from the plane. A small group of Bongo antelopes were spotted walking along a forest trail, fishing camps tucked away along the banks of the Sangha River and other key waterways were noted.
Ground to air communication systems, aerial patrolling strategies and circuits, and liaison with other bush airstrips are underway. Given the huge challenges faced by the Park’s anti-poaching team, the arrival of JP and his wings is also a huge boost to morale in the ongoing fight to preserve Congo’s last truly wild frontier.
Get on board.