May 1, 2018

A high-tech anti-poaching alarm system takes aim at the $23B poaching industry

An unlikely transatlantic tech partnership is making progress in the battle against rhino poachers with a high-tech alarm system that could serve as a model for conservationists.

Connected Conservation, a high-tech burglar alarm designed to prevent wild-game poaching, has reduced the number of rhinos killed by poachers at a South African reserve from 70 to zero in just 2 years.

The collaboration between San Francisco IT-giant Cisco and South African data startup Dimension Data is one of the most successful initiatives so far in the fight against wildlife trafficking — an industry worth up to $23B a year worldwide.

Horny buyers drive demand for wildlife trafficking

Good rhino horns sell for up to $100,000 per kilo in China and Vietnam, due to a belief they cure everything from cancer to erectile dysfunction. This demand drove a 9k% increase in South African rhino poaching from 2007 to 2014.

But, starting in 2015 — when Connected Conservation was created — the total rhino deaths in South Africa dropped for 3 consecutive years.

Defense against the park sharks

When gun-toting rangers were the only security in the 135k-acre reserve, park officials carted off dead, de-horned rhinos every other night. Now, a wireless network of thermal cameras and biometric gateways cuts response time from 30 to 7 minutes — effectively eliminating rhino deaths.

To further reduce poaching and bribery (and protect rangers), Cisco and Dimension Data plan to further automate the $1.5m-per-year system with drone patrols and seismic sensors.

Eventually, they hope to install versions of the system across the world to protect animal populations being picked on by poachers. One already exists in Zambia, and systems will be developed in Kenya, Mozambique, and India next.

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