4 min read

The Anti-Poaching Drones Of The Future Might Look Something Like This

<p>Robert Chew</p>

When artist Robert Chew peers into the next century of African wildlife he sees, optimistically, rhinos and elephants still roaming the wilderness.

There's a hefty dose of realism within his illustrations, however - these future animals are still under threat from poachers.

But Chew gives the coming generations of Africa's "Big Five" some high-tech help. He imagines teams of drones, based on the animals they're meant to protect, keeping an electric eye out for illegal hunting.

The idea that robots could stop poachers may seem like the premise of James Cameron's next movie, but it's grounded in real-life methods. "The inspiration to the series was the use of drones being deployed to aid in anti-poaching efforts," says Chew, a Los Angeles-based concept artist and illustrator, in an email to The Dodo. He cites, in particular, videos of drones combating rhino and elephant poaching.

Though not as technologically advanced as the machines Chew paints, autonomous vehicles have already taken flight around Africa to deter poachers. Kenya, for example, has spent over $100 million on a fleet of drones to patrol its wildlife reserves, though getting surveillance drone programs off the ground in other parts of the continent has been more difficult.

Depicting endangered animals helps Chew focus on a few of the "thousands and thousands" of species he would find interesting to draw. "Animals are fascinating with all kinds of unique characteristics, traits, and ways of living that I find informative and inspirational. It's fun to riff off of these ideas and put them in a different context."

"Being a big fan of sci-fiction and animals," he says, "I found this to be the perfect opportunity to combine the two elements into something both meaningful and exciting at the same time."

The proceeds of this series are donated to the International Anti-Poaching Foundation, Chew says, with whom he has volunteered in Zimbabwe. These illustrations have "been very rewarding for me and I hope that my efforts are helping those who are doing the real work."

All images courtesy of Robert Chew. The endangered species prints are on sale here, as well as in T-shirt form here. You can check out more of Chew's art at his blog.