In the African battle between animal conservationists and poachers, it’s the poachers who have the upper hand. Some new technology aims to shift this balance.
It can’t happen a day too soon, since iconic animals including elephants and gorillas are disappearing at an alarming rate.
Dedicated park rangers fight each day to save these, and other, endangered animals – but they need all the help they can get.
Enter Paul Allen. The tech billionaire and philanthropist and his team of technologists and conservation experts are partnering with park managers across Africa as part of the Great Elephant Census (GEC).
Allen and his team are providing a new technology platform – called The Domain Awareness System (DAS) — to better protect elephants and other wildlife threatened by human activities.
The GEC documented an alarming 30 percent loss of savannah elephants over the past seven years primarily due to increased ivory poaching. This confirmed conservationists’ greatest fears and gives new importance to technology to aid in addressing this crisis.
The Domain Awareness System (DAS) is a tool that aggregates the positions of radios, vehicles, aircraft and animal sensors to provide users with a real-time dashboard that depicts the wildlife being protected, the people and resources protecting them, and the potential illegal activity threatening them.
This system has been installed at six protected wildlife conservation sites since November 2016.
Working with Save the Elephants, African Parks Network, Wildlife Conservation Society, and the Singita Grumeti Fund as well as the Lewa Conservancy and Northern Rangelands Trust, a total of 15 locations are expected to adopt the system this year.
The SMART Partnership, a consortium of conservation NGOs, government partners, and technology companies, is working with Paul Allen’s team to integrate DAS with SMART software used in nearly 500 sites across 46 countries to measure, evaluate and adaptively improve the effectiveness of wildlife law enforcement patrols and site-based conservation activities.
DAS is also powering the Save the Elephants Tracking App, a mobile tool for rangers and researchers that is already proving effective in many field sites across Africa.
With early and eager adoption by the protected areas to date, the implementation team is focusing on the integration of new data sources as they become available.
Satellites, drones, camera traps, animal sensors, weather monitors and technology yet to be invented can all be used for managing and protecting wildlife no matter what threats develop in the future.