Can tech help the gamekeepers get ahead of the poachers once more? With more rhinos killed in South Africa already this year than in the whole of 2012 – which was already a record year for horn huners with 668 animals slain – we’d better hope so. Certainly South Africa’s national parks authority (SANParks) is looking for new ways to help combat the crime, SANParks has turned to the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR) for a five year strategic partnership to look at existing methods for tracking rhino and improving them.
CSIR’s recent successes include the development of the world’s first digital laser.
Starting in Kruger, the programme will evaluate current technology and test out new ideas around sensors and surveillance, including something which can apparently locate “shooters within seconds” and track human movement across borders. According to a press statement issued by SANParks, media coverage over the last couple of years has helped keep the issue in the public mind, and many companies and international bodies have come forward to offer help – the problem now, which the CSIR partnership will help solve, is working out which of these technologies are actually useful and worth committing to.
From the release:
According to Charl Petzer, programme manager at the CSIR, the organisation’s main role will be to act as strategic research and technology advisor to SANParks. “We will be assisting SANParks from strategic and planning levels through to tactical issues such as doing technology evaluation and testing to identify the best technologies to use for sensing, detecting, mobility and so forth,” he explains. “Operationally we need to understand how to manage the life cycle of the resources they have and optimise capabilities to be fit for the challenges they face. For example, we could establish so-called operations rooms for real-time surveillance, national command centres where all law enforcement agencies and departments can work together on environmental asset protection – not just rhino horn but also better border control to counter smuggling of all types,” Petzer continues. “As examples, we are currently evaluating different stealth technologies to detect human movement across border zones, as well as means of detecting the location of a shooter within seconds. Better sensor technologies are also looked at to add to surveillance capabilities at poaching hot spots,” he adds.
Best of luck to them.