Effective wildlife conservation is a pressing issue and one which is critical to the preservation of our natural resources. The WWF’s Living Planet Report 2020 contains some shocking statistics. In the past 40 years, we have seen a 60% decline in populations of species. The risk to our biodiversity has potentially catastrophic consequences. Wildlife conservation is beset with mounting challenges. This makes the advent of a smart wildlife tracking and monitoring system a watershed moment for conservationists, researchers, and anti-poaching teams. Let’s explore some of the challenges and benefits.

THE CHALLENGES

There are currently 41 415 species on the IUCN Red List, 16 306 of them facing extinction. This comes down to a range of factors including habitat loss, poaching and wildlife trafficking, human wildlife conflict, deforestation, and climate change. For the dedicated people tasked with safeguarding the survival of species, there are many challenges. These include:

  • Remoteness, far distances to patrol, treacherous terrain, and extreme weather.
  • High-value species and wildlife trafficking means anti-poaching teams are up against often well-armed, organised units.
  • Satellite and other tracking technologies can be expensive and not 100% reliable. They also present issues around longevity of battery life and malfunctions in the field.
  • Tracking and monitoring systems need to be comfortable for the animal so as to maintain natural behaviour. They also need to be robust for daily wear and exposure to the elements.

1. Data insights to prevent wildlife trafficking

Wildlife trafficking is often well-organised and efficient, with traffickers exploiting the remoteness of locations and vulnerability of wildlife. While anti-poaching units work hard to ensure the wellbeing of these animals, they can be hard to track and find and too widely dispersed to effectively monitor.

To best protect wildlife from poaching and trafficking, the first port of call is knowing where these animals are. Smart technologies like wearable Smarter Technologies’ W360 GPS tracking collars (originally designed to track black rhino) give real-time, accurate locations of subject animals for targeted APU deployment. These readings also provide information around movement, with alerts around undesirable or noteworthy changes. These metrics can be customised according to application, with geofencing capabilities, which is handy depending on the species being monitored.

In fenced reserves, smart technologies can provide enhanced perimeter monitoring and fortify access control and surveillance measures. These measures are important to reduce poaching cases and reduce snaring and bushmeat killings.

2. Human-wildlife conflict

As a result of growing populations, humans and wildlife are often in competition for space. This endangers the lives and livelihoods of people, who resort to killing wildlife for survival. According to the IUCN SSC Human Wildlife Conflict Task Force, the issue of human-wildlife conflict is one of the most urgent considerations for conservation. Many conservation workers are innovating around non-lethal ways of controlling the problem – but monitoring location allows field workers to keep a dynamic, real-time view on the proximity of wildlife to settlements. With pre-defined alerts, researchers and field workers are empowered to react and, where necessary, intervene to avert incidents of human wildlife conflict.

3. Research

Wildlife research essentially involves long-term collection of data. The quality, accuracy, and consistency of this data is evolving through smart technologies. Smart tags and gateways are cost-effective and detailed, providing a real-time granular view of natural behaviour across many sites. These highly-simplified systems give researchers remote access to data around movement patterns, health, habitat utilisation, and population dynamics – and can provide insights for animal welfare innovation and improvement of ecology.

4. Expedited response

From perimeter breaches and security to multi-site visibility of subject animals, real-time notifications inspire immediate reaction. This means enhanced security, recoverability, and far-reaching health benefits for species. Smart technologies also provide information on the conservation area – detecting smoke, for instance.

Additionally, fieldwork in anti-poaching puts wildlife monitors and rangers in danger from both wildlife, snakes and insects, and wildlife criminals. Smart technologies can be used by lone workers to send alarms and notifications, which has a bearing on their safety in the field.

5. Secure transmission of data

According to the WWF, wildlife crime is the fourth biggest illegal trade in the world, worth over £15 billion annually. This trade is often conducted by organised, sophisticated criminals – and that makes data collection on the location of high-value wildlife a point of vulnerability. Smarter Technologies’ smart wildlife monitoring and tracking system transmits data from hardware to users’ remotely accessible dashboards over the Orion Data Network, a secure zero-trust data network.

6. Data for donors

Many conservation efforts around the world rely on ongoing donations and sponsorships. For purposes of fundraising and accountability to donors, nothing gives a clearer picture than hard data. The accurate, detailed data collected by smart technologies highlights hotspots, indicates progress, and is the most powerful way to cast a light on conservation concerns. Bringing these issues from the field to fundraising events and the boardroom is streamlined by smart technologies.

Making conservation smarter with a smart wildlife tracking and monitoring system

The comprehensive smart conservation solutions from Smarter Technologies are a perfect fit for the traditional challenges faced by researchers and anti-poaching units. With many species facing extinction, time is of the essence for many of these projects – and the benefits of smart technologies stand to be a central tool in the protection of wildlife.