Telecommunications service provider Dimension Data and networking giant Cisco Systems have announced an expansion of their Connected Conservation anti-poaching program to Zambia, Kenya, and Mozambique.
The expansion follows a successful pilot of the effort that saw the two companies install sophisticated anti-poaching technology in a private game reserve located next to Kruger National Park in South Africa, resulting in a 96 percent reduction in the number of rhino poaching incidents there since 2015. In 2017, not a single rhino in the reserve was poached.
The Connected Conservation model is designed to proactively "ring-fence" crucial habitat against human encroachment. The animals themselves are never touched, but instead are protected by a matrix of sophisticated technology, people, and gadgets. In Zambia, where the most recent count recorded 21,758 elephants, a control room for a special marine unit is being built to monitor operations in Siomi Ngwezi National Park and along the Zambezi River, while a second marine unit will be deployed to assist with intercepts of poachers looking to cross the river before they get to the animals. In addition, fixed thermal cameras and outdoor Wi-Fi mounted on radio masts, as well as closed circuit TV technology, will be deployed throughout the park.
According to the Great Elephant Census conducted by Paul G. Allen's Vulcan Inc., the population of African savanna elephants fell by 144,000 between 2007 and 2014, while the current annual rate of decline is 8 percent, primarily due to poaching. The census also revealed that thousands of active poachers were from households situated in Game Management Areas.
Eventually, Dimension Data and Cisco, working with others, hope to use their technology to protect a much broader list of endangered species, including lions, pangolins, elephants, tigers in India and Asia, and sharks and sea rays.
"Many organizations have committed to protecting animals through various reactive initiatives, such as dehorning, or inserting sensors in the horn and under the subcutaneous layer of skin," said Dimension Data Group executive Bruce Watson. "However, the problem with reactive initiatives is that by the time the reserve rangers reach the animal, it has been killed and the rhino horn or elephant tusks have been hacked off....In partnership with Cisco, our vision is to eliminate all forms of poaching globally through continuous innovation in technology to protect more vulnerable species in more countries."