PORTLAND, Ore. (KOIN) — A recent Grant High School graduate is about to embark on a journey to Kenya to help save an endangered species.
Almost all species of rhinoceros are critically endangered, and Portland man Shea Stephens is hoping to help protect them by using drones. He’s about to travel across the world to train so-called “Rhino Rangers” on how to fly the devices.
“It’s something that I’m pretty good at so I jumped on the opportunity,” Stephens explained. [I] don’t get opportunities like this so it was important to jump on.”
Stephens has been to Kenya twice already. He tells KOIN 6 News a family friend does a lot of work with the Ol Pejeta Conservancy, where over 150 rhinos live on 140 acres.
Those rhinos are protected by rangers who shield them from poachers, whose work involves doing a headcount every day.
“They’re still hunted by poachers even though they’re in a protected wildlife conservancy,” Stephens said. “So, using drones would help Rhino Rangers search for them a lot more efficiently than they would do on foot.”
Stephens started a GoFundMe to raise money for the drones and to hire a Kenyan-based training team as well, as some of the drone laws are different in Kenya.
Stephens, who got his commercial license to fly drones in 2021, will live with two rangers as he trains them. He’s hoping it will be part of saving the critically endangered species.
“The goal is when we leave, they’ll be able to fly the drones for many years to come without any help,” he said.