Using drones and sirens to elicit avoidance behaviour in white rhinoceros as an anti-poaching tactic

Samuel Penny, Rachel White, Dawn Scott, Lynne M. MacTavish, Angelo Pernetta

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


Poaching fuelled by international trade in horn caused the deaths of over 1000 African rhinoceros (Ceratotherium simum and Diceros bicornis) per year between 2013 and 2017. Deterrents, which act to establish avoidance behaviours in animals, have the potential to aid anti-poaching efforts by moving at-risk rhinos away from areas of danger (e.g. near perimeter fences). To evaluate the efficacy of deterrents, we exposed a population of southern white rhinos (C. simum simum) to acoustic- (honeybee, siren, turtle dove), olfactory- (chilli, sunflower), and drone-based stimuli on a game reserve in South Africa. We exposed rhinos to each stimulus up to four times. Stimuli were considered effective deterrents if they repeatedly elicited avoidance behaviour (locomotion away from the deterrent). Rhinos travelled significantly further in response to the siren than to the honeybee or turtle dove stimulus, and to low-altitude drone flights than to higher altitude flights. We found the drone to be superior at manipulating rhino movement than the siren owing to its longer transmission range and capability of pursuit. By contrast, the scent stimuli were ineffective at inciting avoidance behaviour. Our findings indicate that deterrents are a prospective low-cost and in situ method to manage rhino movement in game reserves.
Original languageEnglish
Article number20191135
Pages (from-to)1-9
JournalProceedings of the Royal Society B: Biological Sciences
Issue number1907
Publication statusPublished - 17 Jul 2019

Bibliographical note

& 2019 The Authors. Published by the Royal Society under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution
License, which permits unrestricted use, provided the original
author and source are credited.


  • rhinoceros
  • anti-poaching
  • drones
  • unmanned aerial vehicle
  • deterrents
  • behaviour


Dive into the research topics of 'Using drones and sirens to elicit avoidance behaviour in white rhinoceros as an anti-poaching tactic'. Together they form a unique fingerprint.

Cite this