Conservationists deploy an ambitious surveillance system in South Africa’s largest state park, using infrared cameras and motion sensors to protect rhinos from poachers
- Kruger National Park in South Africa has developed a system to protect rhinos
- It is an ambitious network of surveillance cameras and motion sensors
- The sensors can distinguish animal and human movements and flag poachers
Conservationists in South Africa’s largest national park have built an ambitious monitoring system to protect the dwindling rhino population from poaching.
The system, codenamed “Postcode Meerkat”, monitors the Kruger National Park, a 7,700-square-mile nature reserve along the Mozambique border.
It uses a series of strategically placed 12-foot high posts equipped with radar sensors, cameras and infrared monitors with which it can record images at night.
Rhinos in the Kruger National Park in South Africa are monitored by an ambitious surveillance system with the code name ‘Postcode Meerkat’ (pictured above)
Solar-powered radar and camera sensors scan the environment for movement and connect to a computer system that can distinguish between movement of animals and people.
When a potential group of poachers is marked by one of the sensors, a “response unit” travels via helicopter or SUV to the area for further investigation.
Since the Meerkat system first became operational in 2016, the number of rhinos in the park has fallen steadily, from 504 in 2017 to 422 in 2018.
The number of encounters with poachers in the same period remained largely stable, with 2,662 registered raids in the park in 2017 and 2,620 raids in 2018.
Most of those raids are registered by the surveillance system, but only a small percentage ever leads to direct contact with park staff.
The rhino populations in Kruger National Park are estimated to be between 7,000 and 8,000 and the number of annual deaths from poaching has slowly decreased since Meerkat was implemented
Meerkat uses a series of solar-powered cameras, radar sensors and infrared sensor to observe the terrain at night
Park officials can follow images taken by Meerkat of remote control stations placed around the park
In 2017 there were only 120 cases of direct contact with poachers and in 2018 there were 125.
This suggests that although the total poaching population has not decreased, they appear to have become more cautious given the likelihood of being monitored.
With a rhino population estimated to be between 7,000 and 8,000, even small annual improvements can make a difference.
The Meerkat system has advanced movement registration to distinguish between human and animal movements. When the system marks a potential threat from poachers, special ‘response units’ will travel to the specified region via helicopter or SUV
The number of rhinos through poaching in the Kruger National Park decreased from 504 in 2017 to 422 in 2018
The preservation of the park’s rhinos can also have an impact on the annual income of the park, which attracted 1.8 million tourists in 2017.
“These parks are a huge revenue generator for South Africa,” said Tumelo Matjekane from the Peace Parks Foundation advocacy group. CNN.
“They attract tourists from all over the world. If we can’t keep that, those people won’t come here and their impact on livelihoods, in the communities around the parks and our economy – it’s not measurable. “
WHY RHINOS ARE KILLED FOR THEIR HORNS
- White rhinos – the species killed in the weekend massacre – are the second largest land mammal in the world, after the elephant.
- A kilo of rhino horn is worth around $ 30,000
- Rhinoceros horns are made from a protein called keratin, the same substance from which fingernails and hair are made. It is actually a compact mass of hair that continues to grow during the life of the animal, just like our own hair and nails.
- White rhinos can weigh up to 2.5 tonnes and 6 feet high and run at speeds of up to 30 mph.
- There are approximately 20,000 white rhinos left in the wild.
- Rhinos stay 15-16 months pregnant. Rhinos stay close to their mothers until they are about 3 years old.