Animal rescuer uses drones to save hurt animals after natural disasters

Animal rescuer and cinematographer Douglas Thron’s passion for animals began when he was a little kid. “I started rescuing orphaned baby animals,” Thron tells Yahoo Life. “And I wanted to be a wildlife cinematographer.”

At the time of the Paradise fire in California in 2018, Thron was working as a cinematographer filming a man who was rescuing cats using an infrared handheld camera. The camera uses heat to detect the animals at night. Thron and the man talked about how incredible it would be to put one on a drone to detect animals more easily. “The animal’s body temperature will glow on the screen and you can pick them out amongst the rubble,” explains Thron.

The first animal Thron ever rescued was a dog in the Bahamas after a category 5 hurricane hit, which “wiped out hundreds of houses,” he says. Thron tested out putting an infrared scope on a drone and found the dog “literally in the middle of the giant debris pile where hundreds of houses had been smashed,” he says. “I flew the drone over and I found him. I was able to rescue him. And nobody claimed him after 30 days so I adopted him, and he’s a super wonderful dog.”

Thron adds that he’s basically been “going non-stop since then.” His TV show, Doug to the Rescue, shows some of his heartwarming animal rescues, including after Hurricane Laura in Louisiana in 2020 and after fires in Northern California and Oregon. Thron also helped rescue koalas after fires ravaged parts of Australia in 2020, using infrared-equipped drones for the first time there to help locate the animals.

Thron’s dream is to one day have an animal rescue ranch where he can train others on flying drones and “hopefully makes these infrared drones as popular for rescuing animals as helicopters are for rescuing people after a disaster,” he says.