Smart Camera Tech Ensnares Wildlife Poachers

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A new series of sensor-laden cameras has been created for wildlife areas to detect poaching activities and send out early warnings. This rugged, stealth technology could protect endangered animals, particularly rhinos that are targeted for their horns.

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The cameras were created by the international product development company Cambridge Consultants in collaboration with animal conservationists from the Zoological Society of London and the Kenya Wildlife Service.

Although motion-triggered camera traps have been around for a while now, the new ones are quite advanced. The camouflaged cameras (video) are designed to be rugged enough to withstand harsh weather conditions and wild animals. According to Cambridge Consultants, the cameras also include sensors that detect vibrations from vehicles and can triangulate the sound of gunshots. That means park rangers can immediately find where poachers are and intervene.

So far the cameras are being installed in Kenya’s Tsavo National Park, where rangers hope to reduce poaching instances over the next two years. The cameras are connected to the global Iridium satellite communication network and work with the free Instant Wild app, which lets anyone see the photos immediately. The smartphone-wielding public is encouraged to identify any animals in the images as part of a larger effort to help conservationists monitor wildlife.

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After the cameras have been fully installed and are working in Kenya, Cambridge Consultants said it hopes to put them in Indonesia, the Himalayas, the South Pole and Sri Lanka. Camera traps, besides producing some amazing wildlife images, can be an effective way to catch and prosecute poachers. Several years ago, a database containing camera trap images provided strong evidence against tiger poachers in Thailand.

The constant struggle between conservationists and poachers won’t go away any time soon, but here’s hoping that sneakier the anti-poaching technology can thwart would-be wildlife killers. The trees really do have eyes now.

Photo: A satellite-connected and motion-triggered camera is set up in Kenya. Courtesy Cambridge Consultants