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21 October2019

by Greg Cooke

Counter poaching is a complicated and multi-faceted problem. Technological advances such as bio-acoustic monitoring can help tremendously with counter poaching initiatives.

The illegal wildlife trade is an escalating crisis that continues to cause tremendous damage to endangered wildlife species. Africa has already seen a dramatic reduction in charismatic megafauna such as the rhino & elephant. While this has decreased to some extent across Southern Africa, this does not represent a decline in illegal poaching itself as the illicit trade of smaller species has helped fuel this transnational criminal trade.

Poaching is an extremely difficult issue to counter. Large tracts of land are often extremely hard to navigate and monitor. The illegal trade of wildlife is a complicated and highly organised system which requires a holistic and integrated counter poaching approach.

Rapid response teams often work together with technological advances in the form of drone software, infrared and thermal detection cameras, and bio-acoustic monitoring. Bio-acoustic monitoring is a relatively new technique and something the expert guiding team at Royal Malewane have recently been exposed to through the innovative work of Industrial Engineering student Saif Bhatti of the Northwestern University Illinois, USA.

Bhatti’s project, Renoster, is an exciting prospect for wildlife parks around the world.

Bhatti was recently afforded the opportunity to test out technology he has developed which alerts park rangers to poaching activities in game reserves. Through developing sound-monitoring technology that has the ability to detect gun fire and communicate the sound’s location to nearby rapid response units, Bhatti hopes to create a highly effective counter poaching system.

The devices, pictured below during testing in the Thornybush Private Nature Reserve, are placed in high points such as trees and dispersed across the reserve in tactical positions to cover maximum ground effectively.


Should a unit detect gunfire, a signal is sent to the nearest unit, creating a chain reaction that triangulates the location and sends this information straight to the closest rapid response task forces such as the GKAP unit.

While the technology is in its infancy it holds massive potential – Bhatti, together with the help of the Thronybush Private Nature Reserve, aims to refine the equipment and associated software to suit the harsh environment of the African bush.

 

The continuous demise of certain wildlife species such as the rhino, which attracts significant international exposure, works as the catalyst for a call to action on the entire illegal wildlife trade, the urgent need for holistic conservation measures to be put in place in order for sustainable tourism to survive through harmonious relationships with surrounding communities.

“A mainstay of this project is that I want it to be able to be replicated in areas that needs it and bring aid to researchers who are working on this problem,” Bhatti says.

Counter poaching is a local, national, regional, and international responsibility, requiring, public and private sectors, policy makers and activists to work together across borders.

Bhatti’s work is open source, a format that meets the need for counter poaching to be an integrated and collaborative effort.

Local communities need to be seen as agents of change. Their involvement, education, and employment are required for wildlife to be rendered more valuable alive than dead.

Royal Malewane’s active participation in various community and conservation initiatives is a continuous effort and something that has had considerable benefits on our counter poaching efforts. The Farmstead at Royal Malewane is a pioneering community project that plays a crucial role in grassroot counter poaching initiatives.

By pooling the resources of various private and public initiatives, and experimenting with innovative new technologies such as bio-acoustic monitoring, counter poaching patrols can now cover larger areas and unite against a common enemy and the detrimental effects poaching has on our wildlife and environment.

For more information on the bio-acoustic monitoring technology, you can contact Saif directly on saif1457@gmail.com.

Should you wish to find out more on how you can donate to the counter poaching initiatives and the GKAP unit at Royal Malewane, you can contact trpfoundation@trp.travel.

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