Rhino Horn Camera ‘RAPID’ Aims To Reduce Poaching

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Africa especially Kenya is a goldmine for poachers who kill elephants and rhinos each year. Different methods to curb poaching have been advanced including development of drones that are equipped with predictive analysis. A non-profit organization Save the Rhino discovered that since 2007 alone, rhino poaching has risen from just 13 animals in 2007 to 1,215 in 2014.

Currently a technology to track the behaviour of rhinos and immediately alert when poachers attack has been developed by a UK Company called Protect. The equipment is known as RAPID (Real-time Anti Poaching Intelligence Device), it combines a satellite GPS collar, heart-rate monitors embedded under the skin of the rhinos and a small camera placed in a hold drilled in the rhino’s horn. If a drastic change occurs in the rhino’s heart rate such as might occur if a rhino was shot — the camera switches on, and an alarm sounds. An anti-poaching team can be dispatched within minutes via truck or helicopter to catch the perpetrators, while any footage captured may aid the prosecution.

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“This system renders poaching pointless. You can’t outrun a helicopter.” Conservationist and geneticist Paul O’Donoghue of the University of Chester said. Paul O’Donoghue led the development of RAPID and has worked with black rhinos for over 15 years.

“Currently a rhino is butchered every six hours in Africa, the issues are many, but there’s far too much money at stake to believe that legislation alone can make the difference, we had to find a way to protect these animals effectively in the field; the killing has to be stopped,” he added.

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Cnet reports that the new technology has received support from many organizations including the Humane Society International and the conservationists in South Africa.

“We simply don’t know where or when poachers might strike, to effectively patrol these vast landscapes requires an army and still poachers could find a way through; they are well organized and equipped, and they will find gaps in almost any defense because the rewards are so great,” said Dean Peinke, Specialist Mammal Ecologist for the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency.

“These devices tip the balance strongly in our favor, if we can identify poaching events as they happen we can respond quickly and effectively to apprehend the poachers.” He added.

RAPID is almost done and it will be taken to the field soon in a number of countries that are affected by poachers.

“We expect to have the first rhino prototypes out within months and are just beginning development on versions for tigers and elephants,” said Steve Piper of Protect. “We hope to have a fully functional control centre established early next year.”

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