NIAMEY: Niger is turning to drone technology to help protect a Saharan antelope and other endangered species in Africa’s largest terrestrial park.

The Termit and Tin Toumma reserve in the southeast of the West African desert state is at threat from poaching, deforestation, over-grazing and armed conflict.

French conservation group Noe will provide drone surveillance under a 20-year agreement to manage the reserve.

Bazoum Mohamed, the former French colony’s interior minister, said drones would be used to help monitor the animals, which include the critically endangered Saharan addax antelope, the dama gazelle and the Saharan sub-species of the cheetah.

The region’s Dorcas gazelle and Barbary sheep are listed as vulnerable, while the Arabian bustard and fennec fox are other protected species to be found in the reserve, along with around a hundred plant species.

Created in 2012, the Termit and Tin Toumma stretches over 97,000 square kilometres — more than three times the size of Belgium.

Published in Dawn, November 7th, 2018