Use drones to detect and rescue animals in difficulty
The new high-flying drones are used for all kinds of missions, from surveillance to backyard play. But Doug Thron uses them to save animals’ lives.
Thron is an aerial filmmaker who adopted drone photography for his art. But he elevated this art when he discovered infrared drones capable of breaking through the devastation left by wildfires and hurricanes, revealing the wildlife trapped in their wake.
“I am a pioneer in using infrared drones with spotlights and zooms to save animals,” he says.
“I’m a bit, for lack of a better word, on a crusade, not only to save animals from natural disasters that keep getting bigger, but also to bring this incredible technology to the world. Because my hope is that someday these infrared animal saving drones will be as popular and as common as say helicopters are for saving people.
Thron’s exploits are the subject of CuriosityStream’s new series, Doug to the Rescue. Thron travels the world where disaster strikes, illuminating lost pets, stranded koalas, and terrified wildlife.
He first got the idea when a filmmaker united Thron with a man who used an infrared telescope to save cats after the fire in Santa Rosa, California.
“We were both talking about it and we were like, ‘My God, if we could put one of these infrared telescopes on a drone, that would be amazing.’ Fast forward, about a year later, I was volunteering with the Sea Shepherd boat in the Bahamas, and using a drone to save animals there. And I had a hard time finding the animals because of the piles of debris, ”he says.
“Imagine hundreds of houses being destroyed and piles of debris 30 feet high, planks, nails and everything. I had a lot of trouble finding the animals. So I thought about an infrared telescope and luckily we had invented one for public use that would potentially work on this drone.
“So I mounted it on the drone, and it worked amazingly well, and from there I started putting spotlights on the drones and also putting in 180x zoom cameras. That’s basically how I started, it’s from those events in my past, ”he says.
Thron’s first rescue was a dog, a Royal Bahamian potcake. “It was right in the middle of Hurricane Dorian, a 40 hour hurricane with winds of up to 180 miles per hour (290 km / h) and 30 feet (9 m) of deep water and hundreds of homes destroyed; hundreds of people have died. And he was literally in the middle of it … with a broken leg and a smashed face, ”Thron recalls.
He not only saved the dog, he kept it by crowning it “Duke”.
“He was super sentimental to me, being the first one,” Thron says.
“For the first six or eight months, he didn’t bark. He wouldn’t wag his tail. He was just, I think, pretty shocked – probably had all kinds of ripped muscles. He had a very bad case of heartworm. And now when you see him he’s like the most loving dog. Jump all around, lick, bark and yes, you’d never even know he’s been through a hurricane before. And it’s quite miraculous to see.
Sometimes the animals are unable to flee and Thron finds them alone and abandoned. “In Louisiana, when we were doing the rescues, I found dogs in chains and left for dead, chained to a car,” he says.
“And through this series we see months later animals chained to cars and left for dead and hungry, just about ready to die. And then you see them months later and they are jumping around licking you and super happy in their new adopted home. So, it amazes me how these dogs can recover and become normal everyday dogs in no time.
It’s not just dogs that he collects, but an array of wild animals, including cats. Thron remembers a special rescue of a badly burnt black cat. “I must have caught him under some burnt stuff. And he was biting and scratching and everything like that, but he was so burnt that if I didn’t catch him he might die and run into the woods.
“And a few months later, it was interesting because the vets were putting honey on these wounds that were almost burnt to the bone. A few months later, the wounds are pretty much healed and the cat is the most affectionate and purring cat. And I was kind of like, ‘Oh, damn. I wish I had adopted this little black cat because it’s like my little mittens when I was a kid. ‘ – Tribune News Service / Luaine Lee