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

Video British Fighters on Frontline of Islamic State Information War

It’s estimated that several hundred British citizens are fighting for Islamic State alongside other foreign jihadists More

Pakistan's Political Turmoil Again Shines Spotlight on Military

Thousands of protesters calling for PM Sharif to step down continue protests in front of parliament, as critics fear political impasse could spur another military coup More

Photogallery Ebola Quarantines Spark Anxiety in Liberian Capital

Food prices rise sharply as residents attempting purchases clash with security forces, leaving one person dead 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.
Native Bees May Help Save Cropsi
X
Deborah Block
August 22, 2014 12:23 AM
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video Native Bees May Help Save Crops

U.S. President Barack Obama has called for a federal strategy to promote the health of bees that have been declining. The honeybee has been waning due to parasites, disease and pesticides. Wild bees may be used to take over their role as crop pollinators. Scientists first need to learn a lot more about wild bees, says biologist Sam Droege, who is pioneering the first national inventory on native bees. VOA’s Deborah Block went to his research laboratory in Beltsville, Maryland, to bring you more.
Video

Video US Defense Officials Plan for Long-Term Strategy to Contain Islamic State

U.S. defense officials say American air strikes in Iraq have helped deter Islamic State militants for the time being, but that a broad international effort is needed to defeat the extremists permanently. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel warned Thursday that the group formerly known as the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant, or ISIL, is better organized, and financially and militarily stronger than any other known terrorist group. Zlatica Hoke has more.
Video

Video Drug-Resistant Malaria Spreads in Southeast Asia

On Thailand’s border with Myanmar, also known as Burma, a malaria research and treatment clinic is stepping up efforts to eliminate a drug-resistant form of the parasite - before it spreads abroad. Steve Sandford reports from Mae Sot, Thailand.
Video

Video Gaza Conflict, Hamas Popularity Challenge Abbas

The Palestinian unity government of Mahmoud Abbas has failed to convince Hamas to agree to Egyptian-negotiated terms with Israel on a Gaza cease-fire. VOA State Department Correspondent Scott Stearns reports on what the Gaza conflict means for President Abbas, with whom U.S. officials have worked for years on a two-state solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.
Video

Video Nigeria's 'Nollywood' Movie Industry Rolls in High Gear

Twenty years after its birth in a video shop in Lagos, Nigeria's "Nollywood" is one of the most prolific film industries on earth. Despite low budgets and whirlwind production schedules, Nigerian films are wildly popular in Africa and industry professionals say they hope, in the future, their films will be as great in quality as they are in quantity. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from Lagos.
Video

Video UN Launches 'Biggest Aid Operation in 30 Years' in Iraq

The United Nations has launched what it describes as one of the biggest aid operations in 30 years in northern Iraq, as hundreds of thousands of refugees flee the extremist Sunni militant group calling itself the Islamic State. As Kurdish and Iraqi forces battle the Sunni insurgents, the fighting has forced more people to flee their homes. Kurdish authorities say the international community must act now to avert a humanitarian catastrophe. Henry Ridgwell reports for VOA from London.
Video

Video Cambodian American Hip Hop Artist Sings of Personal Struggles

A growing underground movement of Cambodian American hip hop artists is rapping about the struggles of living in urban America. Most, if not all of them, are refugees or children of refugees who came to the United States from Cambodia to escape the Khmer Rouge genocide of the 1970s. Through their music, the artists hope to give voice to immigrants who have been struggling quietly for years. Elizabeth Lee reports from Long Beach, California.
Video

Video African Media Tries to Educate Public About Ebola

While the Ebola epidemic continues to claim lives in West Africa, information technology specialists, together with radio and TV reporters, are battling misinformation and prejudice about the disease - using social media to educate the public about the deadly virus. VOA’s George Putic has more.

AppleAndroid