National

Oita deploys drone disguised as hawk to scare off farm-raiding monkeys

Kyodo

The Oita Municipal Government is trying to scare off wild, farm-raiding monkeys by using a drone made to look like a hawk.

The Tanoura district on the east side of Mount Takasaki, home to a popular monkey park, is known as a producer of loquats, figs and mandarins. But the city says that for years, its crops have been ravaged by “rogue” monkeys.

There are about 100 rogue monkeys that do not belong to groups and which appear to be surviving on food other than that provided by the park, which is known at time to feed some wild monkeys.

To compensate for monkey-related farm losses, the city doled out ¥5.90 million in fiscal 2015 and ¥3.93 million in fiscal 2016. Now it hopes to reduce that cost with its drone plan.

The city has flown the fearsome drone four times since the end of May, the time for harvesting loquats. To scare the monkeys away, city officials decorated the unmanned aircraft like a hawk — complete with eyes and beak — and hung a stuffed monkey from it. The drone also plays a recording of screaming monkeys.

Last September, an expert was recruited to unleash a real hawk in the area at the request of the city government. While the method saw some success, it was difficult to guide the hawk in the desired direction, prompting the city to try a drone.

Though the drone’s effectiveness remains unclear, reports of farm damage have been declining so far, the city said.

Officials said they will conduct about 20 tests through March 2018 with the goal of starting a fully developed drone program next fiscal year.

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