Fredrik 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 agreementA 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 towersRangers on patrol with Fredrik Gustafsson Photo credit: Mats Ögren 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 programmeA 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 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.