NewsEast & Horn AfricaConservationists in Tanzania use tech platform to protect endangered species


Posted on Wednesday, 10 October 2018 16:17

Conservationists in Tanzania use tech platform to protect endangered species

By Reuters

In this photo taken Friday, March 23, 2018, wildlife veterinarian Justin Shamancha stands back after administering a dose of tranquilizer antidote to an elephant on whom a GPS tracking collar has been attached, in Mikumi National Park, Tanzania. Photo: Ben Curtis/AP/SIPAIn Tanzania's Grumeti Game Reserve, next to Serengeti National Park, elephants roam, rangers sleep more peacefully at night, and poachers have been put on notice, thanks to new technology designed to protect one of the world's most endangered species.

As a response to the surge in ivory poaching in Africa, where the elephant population fell around 20% between 2006 and 2015, U.S. philanthropist and Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen and technologists from his company Vulcan Inc. have developed EarthRanger. In its early stages of development the tech platform was named the Domain Awareness System (DAS).

From Earth Ranger's Operation's Room in Grumeti, the rangers view screens where they can observe every elephant which has been outfitted with a tracking collar.

"So what we do with DAS is we monitor all our assets, every collared animal and we input data which in turn helps us make decisions and plan operations when we extract the data and analyze," said Alina Peter, the EarthRanger operations room coordinator.

The tech platform aggregates remote sensor readings of animal movements, trackers on radios and vehicles, camera trap photos and data from GPS-powered "geo fences" to give rangers in wildlife reserves and parks such as Grumeti a clear view of protected areas. The platform alerts them when threats are picked up through the data.

Helping curb human-wildlife conflict

"Earth Ranger allows you to, it takes you from being reactive and always behind and always after an animal has been killed, or a ranger has been injured or killed to being proactive, to really being able to anticipate and get ahead of the problem. That not only helps you save the animal's and hopefully save the ranger's lives, it makes you able to use all of your resources more efficiently and more effectively and it stretches those conservation dollars," said Ted Schmidt, Vulcan Inc's business development manager for conservation technology.

Game scout Gotera Gamba said the technology has made the conservation work he and other scouts do far easier and more efficient -- saving the lives of elephants and protecting staff on the reserve from poachers.

"Our job used to be very difficult because if there was a threat it would take a very long time for us to go out and respond, you had to take lots of notes and keep in constant communication with the control room. But with DAS (now Earth Ranger) communication takes just seconds and in a short while we get our work done. In my opinion things have become easier and more professional," Gamba said.

The developers say the system is also helping curb human-wildlife conflict in places like Kenya and providing a network for conservationists in the region to collaborate.

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