Tiger

At war for our wildlife – how technology is saving lives

This post is a little bit different from the rest.

A little less sarcastic and little more serious.

The majority of what you read is still my personal opinion but you may choose what you do with it. This topic is very important to me, and something I feel very passionately about. It should be talked about more. More awareness needs to be created for this ever-growing issue.

We’ve seen how much of an impact on digital technology can have on the travel and the industry. We have mainly looked at how existing and new technologies can help us when it comes to travelling, however, what if I told you that new technologies are being used to help all the ‘Simba’s’ of the African plains?

Tiger

The sickening realities of poaching

Traditionally, rangers on wildlife reserves were equipped with a rifle and a 4X4 vehicle, patrols would be carried out around the reserve to keep an eye on the animals but to also keep an eye out for traps or poachers themselves. These measures would be all well and good if it wasn’t for the reality that the desperation of these poachers had meant that they were prepared to kill any ranger standing in their way. It was reported in 2017 that over 470 rangers were killed whilst driving to protect endangered species such as rhino and elephants. I think sometimes people do forget that there is a war going on and there are people risking their lives just so the next generation can experience animals in their true form and not just from a picture book. Tackling this type of crime has been labelled as being on par with human trafficking, arms dealing and drugs – serious.

Rhino

Bear

Why do poachers poach?

Personally, for me, the idea of someone purposefully killing an endangered species such as a tiger or an elephant absolutely baffles me. But for some, it is a sport, a lifestyle and a hobby. Other reasons are as follows:

Skin and Fur

Animals, especially Tigers, are killed for their pelts (skin). It is seen as a luxury in most Asian cultures to own pelts and exhibits them in their homes. The black market is a lucrative, illegal industry where thousands of pelts are sold.

Medicine

The illegal trade of animal parts can often me for traditional medicinal purposes as well. Rhino horn is said to relieve fevers and lower blood pressure; alligator meat is said to reduce the risk of cancer; Tiger bones, teeth, whiskers and claws are said to cure a toothache and curses; whereas a bear’s gallbladder is said to help in the treatment of asthma… have they heard of an inhaler?

Money

Poaching is also conducted by well organised and sophisticated criminal gangs, with an estimated worth of £11 billion a year. Trade is carried out online, in the deepest depths of the dark web which makes it increasingly more challenging for them to be stopped. Websites are taken down, only for another to pop up 5 minutes later. This is a prime example of how digital technologies have negatively impacted travel, trade can take place online, and often forums are set up to bid for animals to poach.

 

Turning to Technology

So, let’s talk about how technology has impacted and progressed and why it is now seen as vital for the survival of wild animals and rangers.

Incredibly, scientists are using many new technological initiatives that include galaxy hunting cameras and anti-poaching drones. Working alongside Chester Zoo, scientists have been able to use these infrared cameras that are usually used to look for the glow of galaxies on tracking animals over different environments and landscapes. Developer Dr Claire Burke aim is to “make a system that is easy for conservationists and game wardens to use anywhere in the world, which will allow endangered animals to be tracked, found and monitored easily and poaching to be stopped before it happens.” This usage of technology has the potential to save thousands of wild animals and rangers, as animals can be easily tracked by the rangers from a safe distance and without putting themselves in harm’s way.

The Eye in the SkyA drone

Drones are also becoming a very popular choice amongst conservationists. Named ‘The Air Shepheard’, drones will operate under the cover of darkness and can help to track and located poachers in that act. There are over 40 air Shepheard pilots that can control the drones, using the heat-sensitive infrared optic cameras as well as typical cameras images can be quickly processed. This helps rangers and conservationists to study poaching patterns and movements, helping them to predict future activities of the poachers. Although the Air Shepheard is only operating on a small scale at the moment in parts of Botswana, it has the potential to save many lives and to make a positive impact on the fight against poaching.

Other technologies that are lending a helping hand

As we have seen, the war on poaching is taking a technology-driven route. Other forms of technology that are helping prevent poaching as well as increasing the safety of animals are GPS trackers, heart rate monitors and cameras located discretely around reserves. Animals such as Rhinos are even having these devices fitted or embedded in their horns. Rangers are able to digitally monitor any changes in the animals’ health and are able to locate the animal as quickly as possible if needs are with GPS trackers.

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