One rhino is killed every 11 hours in Africa, and of the 20,000 rhinos that lived in Kenya in 1969, just over 500 remain. To help keep tabs on the remaining individuals, Cambridge Consultants has developed a system of motion-sensitive cameras connected by satellites. Created for the Zoological Society of London and in partnership with Kenya Wildlife Service, the information provided by the technology can act as an early warning system as well as a source of data for the Instant Wild Project.
The system can be placed at areas where endangered animals congregate, such as watering holes or savannahs. The cameras take 30 photos a day as well as pictures several seconds apart when triggered by a sensor. They can also detect the vibration of vehicles and the sounds of gunshots, allowing rangers to intervene as soon as possible. Infrared flashes keep both the poachers and animals unaware of the devices. The entire system is able to withstand a variety of weather conditions and is camouflaged to blend in with its surroundings.
All information is sent over the Iridium satellite network, the only commercial system that can be accessed from anywhere in the world. A downloadable mobile application will allow users to catch glimpses of rare animals at the click of a button. The application also comes equipped with a field guide allowing users to identify their subjects.
“This technology will enable us to make a significant breakthrough in our day-to-day work with endangered species. We manage around eight percent of the total land mass of Kenya – and these cameras will be critical in helping us monitor the well-being of rare animals and ensure their habitats remain protected from poachers. Through our work with ZSL and Cambridge Consultants, we want to help raise awareness of vulnerable species and the risks they face every day,” said Patrick Omondi, deputy director of wildlife conservation at Kenya Wildlife Service.
Cambridge Consultants has received grants from both Google and the Royal Charitable Wedding Gift Fund via the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge. While they will be able to identify and intercept potential poachers, the main challenge of eradicating the demand for products such as rhino horn still remains. As conservation groups work towards changing the desire for endangered animal parts, the Zoological Society of London will try to stop the killers in their tracks.
Images via Cambridge Consultants.