New technology boosts rhino protection
January 30, 2018
South Africa: A Global Environmental Facility (GEF) funded, United Nations (UN) Environment implemented project that started in 2013 is enhancing the technology used to find poachers and improve rhino crime scene management in South Africa.
The programme which has been running for six years uses the latest technology to track poachers and help curb the number of rhinos being killed daily.
Michael Strang, one of the leaders of the UN Environment-GEF rhino enforcement programme said: "The project has also recently partnered with Peace Parks Foundation to focus on another pilot project which uses Smart City technology, long-range wide area networks, and Internet of Things protocols and promises to completely change the way rhinos are protected."
The programme has adapted to the changing techniques and tactics used by poachers.
“The introduction of high-tech equipment has proven to be the best way to maximize scarce human resources in the protected areas where the rhinos roam. The days of just driving around or walking a perimeter are gone,” said Strang.
He also spoke about some challenges they are encountering.
“The biggest challenge has been the consistent and relentless efforts of poachers. Despite many arrests, organized crime syndicates are continuing their activities. The toll on the men and women who fight this scourge is incalculable,” he said.
South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs (DEA) has played a key role in promoting training events and helped acquire equipment and software.
The University of Pretoria’s Veterinary Genetics Laboratory Centre is also inlvolved in the project. The centre is also the only centre for rhino forensic work in the country.
The GEF project provided some of the funding for horn DNA analysis from stockpiles and live rhinos, while the DEA funded forensic work related to illegal rhino killings.
The project also enabled the training of additional lab technicians, who will be an asset for many years to come.
GEF funding also enabled the training of biodiversity investigators and crime scene management experts, the production of training videos, the development of an Advanced Course for rangers, the carrying out of prosecutor training, and the setting up of a magistrates’ colloquium, as well as a regional magistrates’ colloquium (including South Africa, Mozambique, Namibia and Lesotho).
The programme was also able to increase the number of personnel taking the advanced ranger training course from 500 to 1,400.
“Training is nearing completion now and, judging from the feedback we’ve received, it has been a huge success,” added Strang.
According to the UN further UN funding for the Environmental Wildlife Trust also enabled the procurement of equipment such as smart phones, and training for the Black Mamba anti-poaching team, a team which was trained to deal with rhino crime scene management.
According to UN a support tool call “C-More system” is being used to allow chief rangers to see what the anti-poaching team can see and understand poaching patterns.
Black Mamba Sergeant Belinda Mzimba said: “The C-more system has made reporting incidents to the ops room much faster and easier.”
“We can take pictures of snares, carcasses and tracks directly, with the location [indicated] at the same time. We can also communicate with the Operations room with C-more,” he added.