A camera system designed to track wildlife and trap poachers in conservation areas could help protect some of the world's most endangered species, according to the Zoological Society London and their co-developers.
London's Zoological Society says 95 percent of Africa's rhinoceroses have been lost in the last 40 years - much of it from poaching. It's a species on the brink of extinction - with conservationists world-wide desperately trying to find ways to help save it. ZSL and its partners have developed Instant Detect - which it says could be a critical tool in the fight against poaching. SOUNDBITE: Zoological Society London (ZSL) Conservation Technology Unit Project Manager, Louise Hartley, saying (English): "It has two main uses. One for the remote monitoring, so for example we have a deployment in Antarctica to monitor penguins, so we're getting images back daily to look at the penguin behaviour and also look at environmental change in that area, and then we're also using it for anti-poaching purposes to improve security within protected areas. So an alert, an image, would be sent to an operations room and then rangers can then react accordingly to that alert." The camera uses motion triggers and passive infrared sensors to detect heat changes in its field of vision. The exterior is robust and utilises technology allowing it to capture footage of those activating its sensors. Crucially it also opens a channel of communication with local rangers. And that means that poachers that set off Instant Detect can quickly be caught. SOUNDBITE: Zoological Society London (ZSL) Conservation Technology Unit Project Manager, Louise Hartley, saying (English): "You have the antenna attached to the top here, and then you would have a battery pack attached to the bottom here. When an image is taken there's a separate unit called the satellite node, and the images are sent via radio frequency to the satellite node and then the satellite node uses the Iridium Satellite Network to send that image to where you need it." ZSL is currently rolling out Instant Detect to two different sites to help anti-poaching operations and remote monitoring. Most of that will be funded by grant funding, although they say additional systems could be sold elsewhere. It's also looking at improving Instant Detect's connectivity. Although reduced genetic diversity, disease, and habitat loss are also contributing to the rhino's plight, the drastic reduction of poaching could help bring this iconic species back from the brink.