A product development firm that is part of Altran, a global leader in innovation and high-tech engineering consulting, has teamed up with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) and the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) to help protect some of the most endangered species in the world. The project is called Instant Wild and consists of a satellite-connected, motion-triggered camera that is helping save endangered animals.
Richard Traherne, head of wireless at CC, said:
“The challenge was to create a remote monitoring system that was robust enough to withstand extreme weather conditions and animal attacks, and could be easily hidden in any surroundings – all within the available budget. The vital importance of the conservation project gave us a valuable incentive to come up with an innovative new system that could help ZSL in it’s mission”
The camera’s are placed in some of the remotest parts of Africa and beyond, and a mobile app has been developed so users can view the beamed images, then immediately find the animal by cross-checking with the field guide within the app and share that data with the ZSL. As well as monitoring the well-being of the endangered animals it can also give an early warning of any illegal poaching activity.
Using this form of technology will make life slightly easier for the KWS who have to manage around 8% of the total land mass of Kenya. The day-to-day monitoring of these fragile species and awareness of their plight will be increased, with the hopeful addition of thousands of pairs of eyes watching out for existing species, and alerting conservationists to new species on a daily basis.
Normally it would take one conservationist days to sort through images taken by the cameras, in an effort to gain vital information from them. With the help of thousands of ‘citizen scientists’ through the free app, this data would be analysed much faster.
All images are sent via a central node back to ZSL’s servers in central London. This is managed via the Iridium satellite communication network, which consists of 66 low earth orbit commercial satellites, providing full global coverage. From there the images are pushed out to the Instant WILD app.
The cameras will have to endure some really harsh environments in Africa, so the team at CC put them through some really stringent in-house environmental and mechanical testing to make sure they were up to the task. Systems have been installed in Kenya, Sri Lanka and Mongolia, the next step will be to extend to locations such as Indonesia, the Himalaya’s and even the South Pole.
“One of our aims is to stop the killing of animals on a daily basis by poachers,” said Professor Jonathan Baillie, director of conservation programmes at ZSL. “In the last 18 months alone, more than 1,000 rhinos in Africa have been killed as a result of soaring demand for rhino horn products. We need to stop the poachers now before it’s too late.”
The £500,000 Global impact award winner is a great project for a great cause, and it has already been determined that a number of species have been spotted that were thought to be extinct. The Instant WILD web page also stated: “This camera is believed to have recently spotted a Mountain Mouse-deer, having only ever been photographed once in the wild in February 2008.”
However, this technology will do much, much more. From determining increases and decreases in animal populations to even taking a step toward stopping illegal poaching once and for all. It is hoped in the future that more sensors can be added to detect other activity, i.e vibrations to detect vehicles in the area that shouldn’t be there and so on. The only downside I can see is the app is only available on iPhone.
Rhino images credit to Olivia Needham/ZSL