Most Americans associate the poaching of exotic animals with faraway lands across the Atlantic. Protecting animals from illegal hunters seems like a helpless effort. For Mike Kennedy, star of Discovery Channel’s Airplane Repo, his two passions led him to make a difference in Africa’s fight to stop the poaching of endangered species.
“Aviation has always been in my blood, I mean there’s nothing like it,” Kennedy said. “My other big passion in life is wildlife, conservational wildlife. In fact, at home in Florida we have a wildlife sanctuary on our property and we have big cats and crocodiles and things like that. And right now, we’re working in Africa to help save rhinos and elephants.”
Kennedy grew up flying planes in Alaska, inspiring his passion for flight. He claims it is still the most popular mode of transportation in the state. While there, he also became passionate about the wildlife of the pacific northwest and wanted to help preserve it.
These two passions turned it action when Kennedy got involved in the efforts to stop poaching in South Africa’s Kruger National Park.
“What we’re doing is the aviation end, and aviation is absolutely essential. So, with us flying patrols, and flying very organized grids, we can locate the animals, locate evidence of poacher incursions, find carcasses unfortunately of animals that have already been poached,” Kennedy said. “We relay those positions to the guys on the ground, so they can pinpoint where they need to be.”
When Kennedy and his team in the sky see action on the ground they are able to call in helicopters who bring in anti-poacher teams, commandos and dog teams that can secure the area and mitigate further damage.
“Without aviation they [animals] would have no chance. It makes a huge difference,” Kennedy said.
Kennedy estimates that at the current rate, there will no longer be any rhinos left by 2025. He also says that there roughly 100 elephants killed every day.
“It is something we thoroughly believe in and want to do everything we can to make a difference,” he said.
Kennedy is marrying his two life passions to make a difference in a far-off region to protect something that is close to home.
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