There are only 539 wild rhinos in Africa right now, and another one is killed by poachers every 11 hours. A set of motion-sensitive cameras fitted with Raspberry Pi computers could keep rhinos and other wildlife safer by letting anyone in the world help keep an eye on them.
The Instant Wild project is putting satellite-connected cameras in some of the remotest parts of Africa, where they will beam back images when they are triggered by a moving animal. Conservation staff will monitor the images, but a mobile app will allow anyone in the world to view photos and help identify the animals and the condition they are in.
The system will provide early warning of illegal poaching activity, as well as evidence for prosecution, say its creators, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS), Cambridge Consultants and the Zoological Society of London (ZSL).
“This technology will enable us to make a significant breakthrough in our day-to-day work with endangered species,” said Patrick Omondi, deputy director of wildlife conservation at KWS. “We manage around eight per cent of the total land mass of Kenya – and these cameras will be critical in helping us monitor the wellbeing of rare animals and ensure their habitats remain protected from poachers.”
The cameras are controlled by a Raspberry Pi micro-computer, and operate on a single battery, using LED flash lighting so they can capture images at night as well as during the day. The captured images are sent back over the Iridium satellite communication network – 66 low earth orbit satellites that represent the only commercial satellite system with full coverage of the globe.
“One of our aims is to stop the killing of animals on a daily basis by poachers,” said Professor Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation programmes at ZSL. “In the last 18 months alone, more than 1,000 rhinos in Africa have been killed as a result of soaring demand for rhino horn products. We need to stop the poachers now before it’s too late.
The remote monitoring system, built by Cambridge Consultants had to be robust enough to withstand extreme weather conditions and animal attacks, said Richard Traherne, head of wireless at Cambridge Consultants: “The vital importance of the conservation project gave us a valuable incentive.”
With experience gained in Kenya, ZSL and Cambridge Consultants hope the system could also be applied in sites such as Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Himalaya and the South Pole.
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