New agreement brings hope for rhinos

A new agreement has been signed this summer to continue the collaboration to save Africa’s rhinos from poachers. “The number of rhinos is increasing in Kenya, the only country in Africa where this is happening", says Fredrik Gustafsson, manager of the Ngulia project.

Black RhinoBlack Rhino Photo credit: iStock/johan63A pilot project has been run in the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary, led by Fredrik Gustafsson, professor in sensor informatics, and the Security Link research programme at LiU. A continuation of the project has now been secured.

Fredrik Gustafsson in NguliaFredrik Gustafsson in Ngulia Photo credit: Mats Ögren Wanger“The number of poaching incidents has been reduced, and the number of rhinos in the sanctuary is increasing, for the first time”, says Fredrik Gustafsson.

Collaboration agreement

A three-year collaboration agreement, with the possibility of extension, was signed this summer by the Kenya Wildlife Service and Linköping University.

“We’re extremely happy about this. We have listened to the needs of rangers and officers active in the sanctuary, and have developed a mobile app that aids surveillance.”

The rangers on patrol use the app to report tracks of not only rhinos but also people, and if they see evidence of suspected intruders, such as used fireplaces, footprints or litter, the rangers file an alert and the officers get an immediate notification in their mobile phone. The app also keeps a record of which parts of the rhino sanctuary the rangers have already patrolled.

On site in Kenya is also Angela Kabari, employed by Kolmården Wildlife Park to coordinate the work.
“We work together extremely well – she looks after day-to-day communication with both rangers and officers at all levels, purchases material and makes sure that everyone knows what to do”, says Fredrik Gustafsson. He, in turn, is responsible for coordination in Sweden.

Virtual watch towers

Rangers on patrol with Fredrik GustafssonRangers on patrol with Fredrik Gustafsson Photo credit: Mats ֖gren WangerThe next step of the project will be to build virtual watch towers to make the work of the rangers in the sanctuary even easier.
“The virtual watch towers may consist of poles with cameras and other sensors that can register and send a warning if something moves. The system should also be able to distinguish between animals and people”, says Fredrik Gustafsson.

This type of technology is already being tested in the Kolmården Wildlife Park, to make sure that it functions without problems when installed. Gustaf Hendeby is in charge for the technology development in the project.

Educational programme

A subproject to the Ngulia project involved an educational programme for the surrounding society, carried out by Angela Kabari’s School Series team supported by Kolmården Foundation. This newly completed project was financed by Postkodstiftelsen.

Black RhinosBlack Rhinos Photo credit: iStock/johan63“Children in the region have never been in the sanctuary. All they know about rhinos is that they damage things and are dangerous. The educational project has taught them what the natural world and animals mean for them and the society in general. It has been conducted in the town Mtito Andei, which suffers from major social unrest and much violent crime. Seventy-five percent of the parents of the children are HIV positive, and the stigma associated with the disease in Africa means that they do not receive treatment”, says Fredrik Gustafsson.

All those involved are putting together a multidisciplinary continuation project also for this issue, covering technology, biology and educational science. Because even though it is large international criminal networks who control the market in rhinoceros horn, the poachers must still be recruited locally.

Project Ngulia

The coordinators Angela Kabari and Fredrik Gustafsson explains the project. 

Education programme

A subproject to the Ngulia project involved an educational programme for the surrounding society

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