Remote cameras have been used for a while to help give us a glimpse of wild animals in their natural habitat that we may not otherwise ever be able to see, but now they’re going to be used to help protect some of the world’s most endangered species.
Real-time images of rare and endangered species are now being sent out as part of the Instant Wild project, which is the result of a collaboration between the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), Cambridge Consultants and Kenya Wildlife Services (KWS).
Thanks in part to a generous grant from Google’s Global Impact Awards, the three organizations collaborated to come up with a new system to help keep track of endangered species in remote parts of the world and protect them from poachers. Together they came up with a system of cameras that are motion triggered and connected by the Iridium satellite network – the only commercial satellite system with full coverage of the earth – along with an iOS app.
To do this, they had to deal with problems from having to go out and change batteries, getting the images out in real-time, taking pictures in the dark and placing cameras in spots that won’t give away the location to poachers. The resulting cameras are run on micro computers that can run on a single battery for a long time, use an LED flash for taking photos at night and are tough enough to withstand a beating from both the weather and wildlife.
As a result, people around the world can help keep an eye on wildlife by accessing these images via an app or the website and help identify animals by matching images with a field guide, which will help conservation staff who are monitoring the images analyze data faster. The cameras are also intended to detect poachers, particularly when it comes to species like rhinos and elephants, and may provide evidence for prosecutions. According to the ZSL, a rhino is killed every hour in Africa due to the demand for their horns.
“The cameras have the ability now to instantly transmit images of intruders to park rangers,” Richard Traherne, head of the wireless division at Cambridge Consultants, told Mashable. “In the future, ZSL are investigating options to detect vehicles from vibrations and triangulate the sound of gunshots, so that park rangers can pinpoint the location of poachers and intervene immediately. The cameras use infrared flash technology not using white light to not scare the animals or make the poachers aware of their presence.”
The creators are starting with Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, but have plans to expand to other remote areas, including Sri Lanka, Indonesia and the South Pole, once the system is up and running.
“This technology will enable us to make a significant breakthrough in our day-to-day work with endangered species. We manage around eight per cent of the total land mass of Kenya – and these cameras will be critical in helping us monitor the wellbeing of rare animals and ensure their habitats remain protected from poachers. Through our work with ZSL and Cambridge Consultants, we want to help raise awareness of vulnerable species and the risks they face every day,” said Patrick Omondi, deputy director of wildlife conservation at KWS.
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