Drone helps filmmaker rescue pets stranded in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian
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A California cinematographer is combining his daily work with his passion for animals to help rescue pets stranded in the Bahamas after Hurricane Dorian devastated the islands.
Doug Thron, 49, who uses his drone to help relief efforts on the Abacos Islands in the northern Bahamas, has already found about 12 dogs and cats.
"I was actually pretty shocked to see as many animals as I did," Thron told NBC News. "[It] still blows me away how these animals survive. Their will to survive is pretty strong."
Thron traveled to the island earlier this month to participate in relief work and to film the destruction "to keep it in the public eye."
"Then I went looking for animals because I knew with the giant piles of rubble that they'd be exceptionally hard to find,” he said.
Hurricane Dorian destroyed entire towns in the Bahamas when it hit in August, leaving at least 50 people dead.
When Thron locates a stranded pet while filming with his drone, he alerts animal rescue crews.
"And then they go out," he said. "Some of the time I'll go out with them. Just depends on the situation."
Thron, an outdoor cinematographer who specializes in aerial cinematography, is back in the U.S. raising money to buy an infrared drone. An online campaign has raised more than $6,400 in three days.
"I spotted numerous dogs and cats with my drones and quickly realized this was the most effective way of finding these poor animals before it’s too late," he wrote on the fundraising page. "The mountains of debris make it very challenging to find these animals."
Thron said the infrared drone's technology will allow him to find animals more easily, and he believes it could become a common method for search and rescue of stranded animals during natural disasters.
"I think it will be exceptionally beneficial," he said.
He is also planning to get an all-terrain vehicle to take with him to the islands because many of the roads are still closed.
Thron, who lives in Oakland, California, assisted with relief efforts following last year's Camp Fire, the state's deadliest wildfire, and came up with the idea of using a drone to help spot animals that had been separated from their owners.
"[It was] discussed that really, what we need is a drone that can fly over the terrain and find these animals," he said.
Thron said he plans to return to the Bahamas, with or without funds for the infrared drone, this weekend or early next week. If he doesn't raise enough money, he said he will return what he has collected and borrow an infrared scope from a friend to continue his work.
Caitlin Fichtel contributed.