News / USA

US Aerobatic Pilot Helps Kenya's Wildlife Pilots Battle Poachers

Patty Wagstaff
Patty Wagstaff

Multimedia

On the black market, ivory commands more than $1,000 per kilogram, making poaching a persistent problem for African wildlife.  But an American aerobatic pilot is trying to end the slaughter by training the pilots who patrol the skies over Africa.  Based on interviews from the documentary film Over Africa, funded by the Lindbergh Foundation and produced by Miles O'Brien Productions, VOA's Carolyn Presutti tells us about Patty Wagstaff who is making a difference by helping her fellow pilots deal with difficult and life-threatening conditions.


Patty Wagstaff is a three-time aerobatic champion.  She is an airshow superstar.  

And she is a pilot trainer who is committed to saving wildlife in Africa.  Wagstaff is the lead instructor for a group of wildlife pilots in Kenya.

"The pilots are good, basic pilots," said Patty Wagstaff. "But they just haven't had the training or the experience to not make the mistakes you make when you're not trained with precision and discipline."

Patty Wagstaff's pilots patrol vast plains, flying low to the ground at near-stall speed, looking for poachers.

"It's so sad what's happening," she said. "The poaching is getting worse.  Aviation is becoming more important because it's been told by poachers that aviation is the single biggest deterrent to them.  So what these pilots are doing is really important."

Red dust kicks up in the intense heat of the afternoon as the airplanes start their engines.  Fuel is handpumped from drums.  And any maintenance is basic.  Every airplane has crashed at least once or has been shot at by poachers.  

Wagstaff pulls up her khaki's above her knees and stoops to the ground brief fellow pilots.  She draws directions in the red dirt of the airstrip.

The pilots gather every year for week-long clinics.  The project is funded in part by The Charles A. and Anne Morrow Lindbergh Foundation, named after the famed American aviator Charles Lindbergh, who flew the first solo, non-stop flight across the Atlantic.

Patty Wagstaff says her special skills help to overcome objections to being taught by a woman.

"When it all comes down to it, we get up in the air and I can show them a few things," said Patty Wagstaff. "And if they give me any problems, I'll just flip them upside down, so."

Poaching decreases when these pilots are in the air.  And their love of flying combines with their love of nature in this unique partnership.

George Mwangi is one of those pilots.

"When St. Peter comes and I eventually leave this world, I want I go to St. Peter and tell him I did my big job and took care of your animals - our animals," he said.

"We have this amazing resource, this global resource that you find in very few places in the world that's becoming more and more endangered - elephants, the rhino and everything else we fly over every day here and it belongs to everybody," said Wagstaff.


Carolyn Presutti

Carolyn Presutti is an Emmy and Silver World Medal award winning television correspondent who works out of VOA’s Washington headquarters.   She has also won numerous Associated Press awards and a Clarion for her coverage of The Syrian Medical Crisis, Haiti, The Boston Marathon Bombing, Presidential Politics, The Southern Economy, and The 9/11 Bombing Anniversary.  In 2013, Carolyn aired exclusive stories on the Asiana plane crash and was named VOA’s chief reporter with Google Glass.

You can follow Carolyn on Twitter at CarolynVOA, on Google Plus and Facebook.

You May Like

African States Push to Keep Boko Haram Offline

Central African telecoms ministers working with Nigeria to block all videos posted by Boko Haram in effort to blunt Nigerian militant group's propaganda More

Falling Oil Prices, Internet-Savvy Youth Pose Challenge for Gulf Monarchies

Across the Gulf, younger generations are putting a strain on traditional politics More

Philippines Call Center Workers Face Challenges

Country has world’s largest business process outsourcing, or BPO, industry, employing some one-million workers More

This forum has been closed.
Comments
     
There are no comments in this forum. Be first and add one

Featured Videos

Your JavaScript is turned off or you have an old version of Adobe's Flash Player. Get the latest Flash player.
US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Casei
X
Katherine Gypson
February 25, 2015 11:30 PM
The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video US Supreme Court Hears Hijab Discrimination Case

The U.S. Supreme Court has heard opening arguments in a workplace religious discrimination case that examines whether a clothing store can refuse to hire a young woman for wearing the headscarf she says is a symbol of her Muslim faith. Katherine Gypson reports from the Supreme Court.
Video

Video Falling Gas Prices Hurt Nascent Illinois Hydraulic Fracturing Industry

Falling oil prices are helping consumers purchase cheaper petroleum at the pump. But that’s made hydraulic fracturing or “fracking” less economically viable for the companies in the United States invested in the process. VOA’s Kane Farabaugh reports on one Midwestern town that was hoping to change its fortunes by cashing in on the next big U.S. oil boom.
Video

Video Fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan Fuels Mass Displacement

Heavy fighting in Sudan's South Kordofan state is causing hundreds of thousands to flee into uncertain conditions. Local aid organizations estimate as many as 400,000 civilians have been internally displaced since the conflict began more than three years ago, while another 250,000 have fled across the border to refugee camps in South Sudan. VOA's Adam Bailes reports.
Video

Video Lao Dam Project Runs Into Opposition

A Lao dam project on a section of the Mekong River is drawing opposition from local fishermen, international environmental groups and neighboring countries. VOA's Say Mony visited the region to investigate the concerns. Colin Lovett narrates.
Video

Video A Filmmaker Discovers Her Biracial Identity in "Little White Lie

Lacey Schwartz grew up in an upper middle-class Jewish family, in a town in upstate New York where almost everyone she knew was white. She assumed that she was, as well. Her recent documentary, Little White Lie, tells the story of how she uncovered the secret of her true racial background. VOA’s Carolyn Weaver has more on the film.
Video

Video Deep Under Antarctic Ice Sheet, Life!

With the end of summer in the Southern hemisphere, the Antarctic research season is over. Scientists from Northern Illinois University are back in their laboratory after a 3-month expedition on the Ross Ice Shelf, the world’s largest floating ice sheet. As VOA’s Rosanne Skirble reports, they hope to find clues to explain the dynamics of the rapidly melting ice and its impact on sea level rise.
Video

Video US-Cuba Normalization Talks Resume Friday

Negotiations aimed at normalizing diplomatic relations between the U.S. and Cuba resume Friday. On the table: lifting a half-century trade embargo and easing banking and travel restrictions. There's opposition in Congress, but some analysts say there may be sufficient political and economic incentives in both nations for a potential breakthrough this year. VOA's Mil Arcega reports.
Video

Video Pakistan's Deadline For SIM Registration Has Cellphone Users Scrambling

Pakistani cell phone users have until midnight Thursday to register their SIM cards, or their service will be cut off. While some privacy experts worry about government intrusion, many Pakistanis are just worried about keeping their phone lines open. VOA Deewa reporter Arshad Muhmand has more from Peshawar.
Video

Video Myanmar Warns Factory Workers to End Strikes

Outside Myanmar's main city Yangon, thousands of workers walked off their jobs earlier this month demanding a doubling of their wages, pay raises after a year and input from labor unions on industrial regulations. Since Friday, the standoff has grown more tense as police moved in to disrupt the sit-ins, resulting in clashes that injured people from both sides. VOA correspondent Steve Herman visited industrial zones which have become a focus of Myanmar's fledgling workers rights movement.
Video

Video Oscar Winners Do More Than Thank the Academy

The Academy Awards presentation is Hollywood’s night to reward the best movies from the previous year. It’s typically a lot of glitter, a lot of thank you’s, a lot of speeches. But many of this year’s speeches carried messages beyond the thank you's. VOA’s Carolyn Presutti takes a look.

All About America

Circumventing Censorship

An Internet Primer for Healthy Web Habits

As surveillance and censoring technologies advance, so, too, do new tools for your computer or mobile device that help protect your privacy and break through Internet censorship.
More