Skulls of Clare and her calf, victims of the only poaching incident in Ngulia since the project started. Photo credit: Martin Stenmarck
The horns are said to have medical value, and can be carved into handles for traditional daggers.
For the park rangers in the national parks of Africa, the situation resembles a war, where they, as well as the poachers, use automatic weapons. And it’s not only the rhinos that are being killed – many humans have died too.
One person who is fighting to change this is Professor Fredrik Gustafsson from LiU. He researches on security and emergency management, and has seen that the technology used to protect critical infrastructure can also be used to save the great animals of the savannah. He becomes one of the project managers of Smart Savannahs, a project where businesses, international organisations and others are partners. It will make use of new technology to make national parks more secure.
Fredrik Gustafsson with park rangers in the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary. Photo credit: Mats Ögren WangerFirst in line is the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Kenya, where a refuge has been created for the critically endangered black rhino. The park rangers get smartphones and tablets with newly developed software. Using these they can easily enter their observations of the rhinos, and of possible threats, and communicate with other rangers and with the management. The phones will be connected with radar and sensors, to make surveillance even more effective. Prior to implementation, all technology is tested in Sweden’s Kolmården Wildlife Park.
And it's working. Poacher numbers are down, and now the rhino population in Ngulia is growing. Kenya is currently the only African country where rhino numbers are on the increase.
The idea is that the surveillance will be so secure that the poachers will not even dare to enter the sanctuary. And that it will soon be possible to use the technical solutions in national parks worldwide, to protect endangered species.