Sea Shepherd Conservation Society undertook a dangerous campaign in Namibia last year, in an attempt to document the seal hunt at Cape Cross, a tourist spot and a designated seal reserve. Their operation was shown on Animal Planet’s special, “Seal Wars.” This year, their land-based team, O.R.C.A.Force, has returned to the Namibian desert with some new tricks up their sleeves.
According to Sea Shepherd, the quota for this year’s cull is 90,000 baby seals, a slaughter that they call “one of the biggest marine wildlife crimes known to man.” O.R.C.A.Force activists have reportedly crossed into Namibia secretly and carrying high-tech equipment. “Last year a government official called us ‘Enemies of the State’ for interfering with their commercial sealing operation. That statement made us even more determined to come back and bring an end to the slaughter of the endangered cape fur seals,” said O.R.C.A.Force director Laurens de Groot.
Despite increased armed security around the Cape Cross seal colony and a navy vessel patrolling the coast, Sea Shepherd remains in an undisclosed location in the desert, staying in during the hot days and working at night. The team plans to obtain footage of the gruesome slaughter. To do this, they are now using unmanned aircraft vehicles (UAVs) or drones. The organization reports the first-ever flight of a UAV over the Cape Cross colony during the seal hunt season. Along with Sea Shepherd campaign veterans, two UAV experts have joined the campaign.
de Groot says, “It‘s an absolute privilege to work with such a great team. The aviators provide exceptional skills. They look at anything and immediately start wondering how they can make it fly. It’s like they’ve thrown Charles Lindbergh, the Wright brothers, and MacGyver in a magic hat and pulled out these two world-class experts.”
The test flight was a success, but the UAV is going up against strong winds and blowing sand as it makes the 7 mile flight. Sea Shepherd also says that the UAV was homemade on a small budget. The pilot, referred to as “Mr. Biggles,” says “We’re making the impossible possible in this remote place, far away from electricity or other resources that we generally need to make something fly. But I’m convinced we can do it again, this time with cameras.”
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