Combating Rhino Poaching in Africa with Drones

The Hluhluwe-Imfolozi Park in South Africa is constantly fighting against poachers who are illegally hunting rhinos to near extinction.
7:58 | 02/24/16

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Transcript for Combating Rhino Poaching in Africa with Drones
We now turn to a high stakes war against trafficking. World more than gold, cocaine, even diamonds. The coveted horn of the rhino. But now a new military grade piece of machinery is being deployed in the fight against ruthless poachers. We go to the south african bush. In the pitch black of the south african bush, these rangers can only listen and smell for any sign that's their enemy is near. If they're not quiet, they will pick you up first. They hunt for rhino here every night. We need to protect them from being shot. Tonight our patrol has eyes in the sky. We're on the front lines of a modern war. Over an ancient animal. The future of the rhino is in the balance. According to the world wildlife fun, in South Africa alone, rhino poaching has skyrocketed 9,000% in just 8 years, fueled by a growing demand for its horn. Ground up and used as a popular party drug in Asia. More expensive than gold and some say more desirable than cocaine. With the millions made from the illegal trade, now ma nep-related and controlled by criminal networks, the plight of the rhino has global implications. In the oldest game reserve in South Africa, they're trying something new. This is command central for air shepherd. A pilot project where unmanned aircraft are being deployed to help park rangers in their fight. Nighttime operations has always been very, very difficult for these guys. And besides meeting one the poachers you might be tracking, the danger to the animals. We'll just foul. You guys carry on. We'll just keep you in the frame. Tonight's mission is about to begin and tensions are high. With ruthless poexers likely in the dark, and the reason news of a park worker mauled to death by a lion. Don't let the laughter fool you. My nerves are kicking in. You don't know what's on the other side of the bush. The drone infrared camera picks up heat signatures of animals and humans. And sends images back real-time to the command center. The white dots are us on patrol. The experienced rangers keep several feet between them so if one of them is attacked, they don't all go down at once. How many does it help? Give you a sense of ease to some degree that you have this thing hovering above you now? I think it is quite fortunate with the drone above us. So the guys can see us. No signs of poachers during this patrol. But in this vast territory, the drones and patrols can only cover. So ground. In the few days we're here, four rhinos were killed. Many of the rinl owes that survive these attacks are brought here to this nearby sanctuary. High, big fell. Somebody messed you up. Somebody got paid off you, big guy. Like this mother and her calf. We hear poaching all the time. Look at this animal. First time I'm seeing it in my life up close and personal. But just, I mean, until you're this close to it. That is brutal. Three months ago rescuers found her in the bush, still groggy. Her horn hacked off. Left for dead. Her baby clinging to her side. Is the animal still in pain? No. As much as we can get a success. She is healing well and soon the two will be released back into the reserve. Man oh man. It's a shame this place is even necessary. It is almost unfathomable to think, what would drive someone to this kind of brutality, until you realize a single rhino horn can fetch up to a quarter million dollars on the black market. Even a small fraction of that is hard to resist in a place with little opportunity. We're in a township outside pret Pretoria. Our poacher set up a meeting for us. A former poacher has agreed to meet us. Only if we don't show his face. Did you ever feel bad for what you were doing for killing these animals? Through a translator he said he felt bad but needed money to feed his family. He became a shooter and he killed at least 50 rhinos. He said his crew always had a guy on the inside. A ranger on the take. Park officials are being paid off. Police are being paid off. The level of corruption stretches into local government offices. Given the amounts of money, anyone is open to being corrupted. Most of the money is taken by criminal networks. Most of it ends up here in Vietnam. It is a status symbol for the rich. You grind it up in special designed dishes. Mix it with rice wine and water. It is that said to cure everything. Despite the ban on the trading of rhino horn, markets can still be found as seen in this bbc program. Here the back of a tailor shop. A deal is underway. How much are you charging? But it's a false promise. There is no scientific proof that rhino horn has any benefit. I want to point out that it is simply made of keratin. It is exactly the same as your finger nails. Celebrities. Ask your friends and family never to buy rhino horn. Even prince William took up the cause. Together we can save our wild rhinos. When the buying stops, the killing can too. These slick ads may only go so far. You're dealing with faith. People firmly believe that rhino horn does have the attributes that it is said to have. It is the same as telling a Christian, Jesus Christ doesn't exist. That's the level of belief that you're dealing with. For many people, it crosses beyond that. In Africa the focus is on steming the supply. To harvesting the horns and selling them legally. As you know, the rhino horn grows back. It is a painless, relatively uninvasive procedure. I'm telling you, this is the way we will save the rhinos from extinction. While not everyone agrees on the best path forward, what we've seen here on the front lightnings are people trying everything. That's probably what it will do and more to win this battle against extinction. South Africa. When we come back, the

This transcript has been automatically generated and may not be 100% accurate.

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