Bay Area Filmmaker Uses Tech to Help Save Wildlife

NBCUniversal, Inc.

Fresh from his flight back from Australia, a Bay Area filmmaker is using technology to help save wildlife, many of which are on the brink of extinction.

Douglas Thron is usually working on nature films, piloting his drones to help directors get phenomenal images of animals in the wild. However, he recently started using his high-powered drones to help save some of those animals from natural disasters, like Australia’s recent wildfires.

“Now it's kind of shifted, not so much rescuing the animals, but locating where the remaining populations are,” Thron said.

Over the last several weeks, he's been using one of his specially equipped drones -- a has an infra-red scope which comes in handy, spotting animals in partially scorched wilderness areas.

"With the infrared drone, you fly over, and they give off a heat signature, and you can readily pick up where the animals are, and the rescue crews can go and capture them if needed,” Thron said.

He’s helped wildfire survivors in California find their lost pets, and he also volunteered with animal rescue teams after hurricanes in the Caribbean.

Thron said the amount of land and animal habitat destroyed in Australia is so large, it's almost unthinkable.

Tens of millions of acres burned, 2,500 homes destroyed. He captured stunning video of kangaroos in wide open areas, koalas in trees looking for leaves to eat and wombats near their tunnels.

Those are animals that don’t exist anywhere else in the world so Thron is hoping to help locate more survivors to help feed them.

"It could be six months, they're saying it could be years that the animals are going to need human intervention giving them food, otherwise they're going to starve,” he said.

Thron is in the Bay for a week, getting some maintenance done to his drones and he will return to Australia next week.

He hopes to not just to get people to donate money to animal rescue organizations, but to get the Australian government to do something as well.

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