Can these new tracking collars deter rhino poachers?

By Kate Hassett

Can these new tracking collars deter rhino poachers?
The new way we are tackling poaching head on.

The war against poachers is going high tech.

With the world seeing an unprecedented increase in poaching levels due to high demand in Asia, the rhino’s horn has become a commodity which places a very high bounty on a rhino’s head. The Council on Foreign Affairs states that rhino poaching rates have seen a 10,000 percent increase since 2007 – a sickening statistic that shows no sign of decreasing.

It is estimated that fewer than 29,000 rhino survive worldwide with the Northern White Rhino sadly reaching numbers as low as 4 this year.  These staggering statistics show the serious threat of extinction that this species faces on a daily basis.

As such, serious measures have become necessary if conservationists’ are to kerb the extreme levels of poaching that is so quickly destroying the rhino  population.

Now, a British-designed system uses GPS technology and a 24-hour heart rate monitor, to trigger an alarm the second a rhino is shot.

As soon as the alarm is raised, conservation rangers will be helicoptered  to the site within minutes, helping to stop the poachers in their tracks. The camera, attached to the animals horn will also allow evidence to be collected leading to the arrest and conviction of the guilty poachers.

With a rhino being butchered every six hours in Africa, the threat is great and such technology could be extended to include protection of elephants and tigers.

Dr Paul O’Donoghue has worked with the black rhino population for over 15 years and has developed the technology with the hope of deterring the poachers from hunting in the first place.

“We had to find a way to protect these animals effectively in the field – the killing has to be stopped,” he said.

“With this device, the heart-rate monitor triggers the alarm the instant a poaching event occurs, pin-pointing the location within a few metres… leaving poachers no time to harvest the valuable parts of an animal or make a good escape.”

Whilst these animals are mostly kept under round-the-clock protection, the sheer size of most conservation reserves, mean that the guards and army officers that patrol the grounds, are often too far away for immediate and life-saving action.

“These devices tip the balance strongly in our favour. If we can identify poaching events as they happen, we can respond quickly and effectively to apprehend the poachers.” said mammal ecologist Dean Peinke.

Rhinos have been on the planet for 16, million years. With poaching levels continuing the way they are – the entire species could be extinct in just 10 years. The hope is that this ‘Rhino Cam’ will change this and save the rhino population and others endangered by poaching.


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