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Why is training communities to work with drones so important?
1. Drones capture incursions even as they are happening giving the government the exact coordinates of illegal activity and the evidence they need to apprehend illegal loggers.
2. Together we can map the rainforest, ensuring accurate maps of their ancestral lands to pressure governments to recognize their land rights.
3. Rainforest Defenders can minimize direct confrontations with armed criminals by gathering data safely from the air.

“Indigenous people in Panama are using drones as a new weapon to monitor deforestation on their lands as thousands of hectares disappear every year in one of the world’s most biodiverse rainforests, the United Nations said.

More than half of Panama is covered with tropical rainforest, home to various indigenous groups who rely on the forests to survive.

“The main objective of monitoring with drones is to identify changes in specific points of the forest cover,” the U.N. Food and Agriculture Organisation (FAO) said in a statement on Wednesday.

“The monitoring is carried out in areas under deforestation and degradation pressure, which are only observable with high resolution spatial images.”

Indigenous people make up nearly 13 percent of Panama’s population of 4 million, with about 200,000 living on autonomous tribal lands, known as comarcas.

“These tools enable us to better know the forests’ characteristics and resources we have in our territories,” Eliseo Quintero, a leader of the Ngabe-Buglé tribe, said in a statement.

Panama’s indigenous groups first started using drones to monitor their ancestral lands last year, the FAO said.

The current FAO drone project began in February and is being carried out through the U.N.’s Reducing Emissions from Deforestation and Forest Degradation Programme (UN-REDD), in partnership with Panama’s environment ministry and the non-governmental Rainforest Foundation. READ MORE