Technology developed to protect gorillas

Posted on 4 July 2019

Technological developments have been made to protect precious wildlife in Southern and East Africa. The Uganda Wildlife Authority (UWA) is trialling a potential solution to human-wildlife conflict that often happens with the country’s vulnerable mountain gorillas.

A trial of an innovative technology solution to record incidents of human-wildlife conflict has launched, with a view to allowing local communities, mountain gorillas and other wildlife to better coexist.

Cath Lawson, Regional Manager Africa at World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), said in a statement, ‘Mountain gorilla habitats are surrounded by some of Africa’s highest densities of rural populations. Finding solutions that enable the coexistence of wildlife and local communities is the only way that conservation efforts can succeed.’

The sub-species was recently re-classified as endangered, as opposed to critically endangered. There are however only about 1,000 mountain gorillas surviving in protected parks in the wild; around 600 are in the Virunga mountains, while around 400 are in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

UWA, the International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP), a coalition of WWF, and Fauna & Flora International, have aligned with Inmarsat, a mobile satellite communication company, to create a mobile-based technology solution that captures and streamlines data from incidences of human-wildlife conflict. It allows for real-time data transferral.

The system allows for simple and standardised information gathering, and enables community volunteers to use straightforward visual tools and their local language to record any incidents.

Connectivity in remote mountain gorilla habitats can be challenging but with Inmarsat’s mobile satellite devices, the data collected by HuGo groups can be transmitted via satellite in near real time.

Key information is sent to UWA rangers and other Human Gorilla Conflict Resolution (HuGo) members so that they can provide additional support if needed. The data is then stored on a central UWA server, where it is used to inform human-wildlife conflict mitigation work.

Going forward, part of the pilot will be used to enable automatic transfer of the data to the UWA server via satellite network

The technology is being piloted in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park, located in southwest Uganda.

Similarly in Kenya, according to Tourism Update, technology is being used to notify rangers of potential poachers in real-time.

FLIR Systems Inc. and WWF announced their collaboration on the The Kifaru Rising Project, which aims to specifically protect black rhino.

Essentially WWF will be installing fixed FLIR cameras with thermal technology along an approximate 8km-long fence. According to Tourism Update it is a high-risk fence line that spans over ten parks and reserves.

Rangers will be given handheld, battery-operated cameras that monitor the fence line for potential poachers. Rangers will be able to watch the area remotely, in real time.

FLIR has pledged $3 million (R41,994,000) in technology, engineering assistance and training. Their overall goal is to rid Kenya of rhino poaching by 2021.


Image: Facebook, International Gorilla Conservation Programme  

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