GPS Trackers, Cameras and Heart Monitors All Work to Protect Rhinos

gps-surveillance-camera-rhinoIn the process of monitoring the security industry, it’s always exciting when we find products used for good. Whether it’s hidden cameras used to bring a child abuser to justice, or a GPS tracker used to stop a domestic violence case before it begins, these stories always warm the heart. Never have so many products been used for one common goal, however, as they are in a recent program developed to preserve and protect rhinos.

Developed by Protect, a British nonprofit dedicated to conservation, the Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device (RAPID) combines GPS tracking, cameras, and heart-rate monitors all working in unison to deter poachers from decimating endangered rhinos for the purpose of harvesting their valuable horns.

The number of rhinos being poached has spiked in recent years, with estimated numbers rising from nearly 700 in 2012 to nearly 1,200 in 2014. Most of the slaughter takes place in South Africa, where crime syndicates are killing rhinos for their horns and then selling them for high prices in Asia, where they’re purchased for their supposed medicinal properties. Current estimates place the number of wild rhinos at fewer than 30,000 across the five remaining species—black, white, Indian, Sumatran and Javan—with white rhinos’ (the most commonly targeted among poachers) numbering nearly 20,000.

RAPID works using 3 technologies operating in tandem. First, heart-rate monitors embedded under a rhino’s skin detect any sudden fluctuations potentially indicative of a poaching event. If the animal’s heart rate spikes or plummets, RAPID sends an alert to operators at a control center, who can then access a real-time camera embedded in the rhino’s horn (a painless procedure with no health risks). Through the video, park authorities can assess the situation to determine if poaching is taking place. Finally, because of GPS collars fitted around the rhino’s neck, their exact location can be used to dispatch authorities to catch poachers in the act.

“You’re looking at a fraction of a second from a rhino getting stressed or upset to the alarm being raised,” says Steve Piper, a director at Protect. “So there’s really no opportunity for poachers to cut off [the horn].”

This program isn’t the first time technology has been used to combat poaching. Conservationists have been using drones and microchip implants in recent years to monitor at-risk populations.

The RAPID program is currently in a prototype stage, and Protect hopes to deploy more devices in the coming months, with a wide rollout in late 2016. There is also talks of adapting the system to deter poaching of other threatened animals, including elephants, lions, and whales. Piper says a version for tigers is already in development.

Watch video of the camera in action below:

(h/t to Verge)

(Image by William Warbylicensed under Creative Commons)

About the author  ⁄ Erik Helin

Erik is BrickHouse Security's copy chief. Hailing from the Midwest (Wisconsin), Erik moved to NYC in 2010, securing a job at BrickHouse shortly thereafter. Outside of work he writes about music, does freelance advertising work, and wastes his life on the internet. Aside from no-brainers like cheese and beer, Erik enjoys music, travel, TV, his cat, and Brooklyn.