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Connected conservation helps protect SA's rhino

By , ITWeb
South Africa , 22 Sep 2017

Connected conservation helps protect SA's rhino

Multinational ICT services provider Dimension Data (DiData) and networking supplier Cisco believe the best way to combat rhino poaching is through connected conservation or the combination of technologies to proactively monitor nature reserves in real time.

The companies believe this is a proactive approach rather than a reactive one in dealing with poachers.

"Technology is the fourth multiplier and it is proactive, and the big thing that comes out of it is data, and data allows you to find people before they arrive on the spot," said world-renowned conservationist Dave Varty during a Webinar yesterday ahead of world rhino day.

DiData and Cisco have established a partnership to protect rhinos at an unnamed private game reserve.

The focus is on the movement of people entering and exiting the park, rather than tracking the rhinos; thus combining their technology innovations.

The partners add that they intervened with the provision of technologies including; CCTV biometric visitor scanning cameras, seismic and shot sensors on the ground with sensors attached to each vehicle on entry, thermal imaging and acoustic fibre along the perimeter, drone cameras in the sky, and LoRA technology within the reserve, internally providing better connectivity with wildlife rangers.

The collected data is backed up in the cloud, while also being analysed in real time to track and monitor visitors. The company says it also analyses historic data from the national database to identify known suspects, access data on multiple devices from rangers, enable proactive decision-making, and dispatch armed response units.

According to DiData, the nature reserve, which covers 62 000 hectares, posed several challenges such as its remote location, a lack of IT infrastructure and featured basic access control with manual security, and limited communication.

"The business outcome that has been achieved through connected conservation has been a 96% reduction in rhino poaching in the reserve," said Varty.

"Rhino horn is seen as a commodity, much like any other product that entices organised crime, it's a sad thing to say, but it stands with the existing business model of human trafficking and drug trafficking," he added.

According to the South African Department of Environmental Affairs, in 2014, the country, which is home to most of the world's population of rhinos, lost 1 215 animals.

The rhino was being killed almost every 8 hours and "at that rate (the) rhino would likely be extinct by the year 2025," said DiData's Doc Watson who manages its global Cisco alliance.

"And if that were to happen it would have a significant impact, not only with the most iconic species like rhino, but there would be a big strain on the economy. Without the rhino, the ecosystem would be destroyed, tourism would be reduced and unemployment would be deepened."

Watson says they hope to expand the connected conservation project, to go to other reserves in SA and beyond.

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