Wildlife poaching is a huge, growing problem which poses extinction-level threats to animals in Asia, Africa, and South America. In fact, the African Wildlife Foundation warns that at current poaching rates, elephants, rhinos, and other iconic African wildlife may be gone within our lifetime.
On the black market, rhino horn is one of the most valuable substances in existence. At more than $60,000 per pound, it sells for more than gold or diamonds, resulting in a $20 billion a year illegal trade industry. Despite massive conservation efforts across Asia and Africa, the growing demand for rhino horn has continued to elevate a black market where the horn is sold both as a status symbol and as an ingredient in alternative medicines and aphrodisiacs.
Considerable efforts have been made by both government and nonprofit organizations to combat poaching, ranging from increased military patrols of rhino habitats, introducing dye and poisons into the horns to make them worthless to dealers, to more extreme measures such as dehorning the animals entirely. The efforts to address the problem have thus far been largely ineffective.
Anti-poaching efforts are dangerous, difficult operations for law enforcement agencies that have limited resources and manpower to patrol countless acreage in search of armed criminals. Now IoT companies are working to change that.
Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device, (RAPID)
We Are Protect, a UK-based conservation group, has developed the Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device, or RAPID. It consists of a spy camera for its horn, a heart monitor to go under its skin, and a global positioning system tracker.
If the animal’s heart rate increases, as it would if it were under threat, wildlife rangers can activate the camera for live footage of its surroundings. If they believe that poachers are responsible they can deploy a rapid-response team with guidance via GPS. The rapid-response team can dispatch helicopters in response to poachers.
We Are Protect hopes that Rapid could be rolled out to protect other endangered species once it receives wider support. Other than Rhino, a version for Tigers is already under development.
Connected Conservation Project
Many organizations have committed to protecting rhinos through various reactive initiatives and using a range of devices. These may involve darting the animals with tranquilizers to insert sensors into their horns, or inserting a chip under their skin. This can be extremely stressful and risky for the animal.
Connected Conservation is the first conservation-related approach where the animals are not touched, leaving them to roam freely while a “layered effect” of technology, people, and gadgets protects them. The goal of their end-to-end technology solution is to proactively intervene and stop people entering the reserve illegally, whether it’s cutting fences, being dropped onto the ground by helicopters, or simply driving through the entrance.
Previously, every day, hundreds of staff, suppliers, contractors, security personnel, and tourists entered and exited the South African game reserve. The human activity in the environment was not monitored because the reserve is located in a remote area with basic IT infrastructure and access control, manual security processes, and very limited communication.
Dimension Data and Cisco established a secure reserve area network (RAN) and installed local area networks (LANs) including Wi-Fi hotspots, CCTV cameras, and biometrics at every entrance to the private game reserve. These were all linked to a high-security management control room, which is manned 24/7. Phase two of the project, which is currently being tested, involves collecting data on every individual entering the reserve, including fingerprints, and using predictive modeling to estimate when an individual or vehicle will enter and exit the reserve.
All individuals entering the reserve gate are required to show their ID or passport and vehicle registration plates, which are cross-checked with the South African national database and helps security personnel identify whether a person entering the reserve has a criminal record or whether the vehicle has been stolen. Sniffer dogs also check vehicles and individuals going through the gates.
IoT Not Only Benefit Human and Also Species
IoT will be a groundbreaking solution to stop poaching and keep rhinos and other wildlife safe. By having anti-poaching projects such as RAPID and Connect Conservation, poaching will be rendered as a pointless activity since poachers can’t outrun helicopters. These technologies can catch these people red handed and finally allow animal protectors to have a fighting chance of saving astonishing species from extinction. As we transition into a more connected world, not only will IoT benefit humans, it can also benefit the many species that share this planet with us.