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

VOA Exclusive: Interview With Myanmar President Thein Sein

Thein Sein calls allegations that minority Muslim Rohingya are fleeing alleged torture in Rakhine state a media fabrication More

Video Better Protective Suit Sought for Ebola Caregivers

Current suit is uncomfortable, requires too many steps for removal, increasing chance of deadly contact with virus More

UN Rights Commission Investigates Eritrea

Three-member commission will start collecting first-hand information from victims and other witnesses in Switzerland and Italy next week 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.
Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concernsi
X
November 19, 2014 11:39 PM
The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Ebola Economic Toll Stirs W. Africa Food Security Concerns

The World Bank said Wednesday that it expects the economic impact of the Ebola outbreak on the sub-Saharan economy to cost somewhere betweenf $3 billion to $4 billion - well below a previously-outlined worst-case scenario of $32 billion. Some economists, however, paint a gloomier picture - warning that the disruption to regional markets and trading is considerable. Henry Ridgwell reports from London.
Video

Video Mexico Protests Escalate Over Disappearances

Protests in Mexico over 43 students missing since September continue to escalate, reflecting growing anger among Mexicans about a political system they view as corrupt, and increasingly tainted by the drug trade. Mounting outrage over the disappearances is now focused on the government of President Enrique Pena Nieto, accused of not doing enough to end insecurity in the country. More from VOA's Victoria Macchi.
Video

Video US Senate Votes Down Controversial Oil Pipeline - For Now

The U.S. Senate has rejected construction of a controversial pipeline to transport Canadian oil to American refineries. The $5 billion project still could be approved next year, but it faces a possible veto by President Barack Obama. As VOA’s Michael Bowman reports, the pipeline has exposed deep divisions in Congress about America’s energy future.
Video

Video Can Minsk Cease-fire Agreement Hold?

Growing tensions between government troops and separatists in eastern Ukraine further threaten a cease-fire agreement reached two months ago in the Belarusian capital of Minsk. Critics of U.S. policy in Ukraine say it is time the Obama administration gives up on that much-violated cease-fire and moves toward a new deal with Russia. VOA's Scott Stearns has more.
Video

Video Chaos, Abuse Defy Solution in Libya

The political and security crisis in Libya is deepening, with competing governments and, according to Amnesty International, widespread human rights violations committed with impunity. VOA’s Al Pessin reports from London.
Video

Video US Hosts Record 866,000 Foreign Students

Close to 900,000 international students are studying at American universities and colleges, more than ever before. About half of them come from Asia, mostly China. The United States hosts more foreign students than any other country in the world, and its foreign student population is steadily growing. Zlatica Hoke reports.
Video

Video Ferguson Church Grapples with Race Relations

Many white residents of Ferguson, Missouri, say they chose to live there because of the American Midwest community's diversity. So, they were shocked when a white police officer killed an unarmed black teenager in August – and shaken by the resulting protests and violence. Some local churches are leading conversations on how to go forward. VOA’s Ayesha Tanzeem reports.
Video

Video What Jon Stewart Learned About Iran From 'Rosewater'

Jon Stewart, host of the satirical news program "The Daily Show" talks with Saman Arbabi of Voice of America's Persian service about Stewart's directorial debut, "Rosewater."
Video

Video Lebanese Winemakers Thrive Despite War Next Door

In some of the most volatile parts of Lebanon, where a constant flow of refugees crosses the border from Syria, one industry continues to flourish against the odds. Lebanese winemakers say after surviving a brutal civil war in the 1970s and 80s, they can survive anything. Heather Murdock has more for VOA from the Bekaa Valley in Lebanon.
Video

Video China's Rise Closely Watched

China’s role as APEC host this week allowed a rare opportunity for Beijing to showcase its vision for the global economy and the region. But as China’s stature grows, so have tensions with other countries, including the United States. VOA’s Bill Ide in Beijing reports on how China’s rise as a global power is seen among Chinese and Americans.

All About America

AppleAndroid