A systemic poaching trend in Kenya that has seen over 20 elephants and undocumented number of rhinos shot dead by poachers this year alone is now seeing conservancy groups embrace state of the art technology to beat poachers who have deviced new ways as global ivory trade flourishes.
The Kenya Wildlife Service reeling from the loss of 11 elephants from the same family recently to poachers is courting an alarm system that alerts its rangers on possible poaching through SMS, coming at a time when the country is reeling from the shooting of an entire family of eleven elephants by suspected poachers.
A week after the shooting of the elephants, 638 pieces of ivory worth over Sh85million were impounded at the Port of Mombasa while illegally on transit to Indonesia which forms one of the largest market for Kenya's ivory.
Security officials hope that the technology connected to fences around parks and wildlife sanctuaries will help reduce poaching by upto 90 percent.
When an animal interferes with the fence or a person tries to tear down the fence, the alarm produces a very loud sound which is relayed to the security switchboard as an SMS message and shows the location. Reinforcement is then sent to the affected area.
The new technology which has only been rolled in selected game parks and wildlife sanctuaries due to the high cost needed to cover the over ten vast parks in the country.
For example Tsavo National Park where the 11 elephants were killed is the size of Belgium. “And much as we want to contain the poaching menace, it is a strain on us logistically and financially, but we believe we will gradually roll out the technology across our parks,”said Patrick Omondi the head of the species department at KWS.
The launch of the technology is an addition to a DNA profiling technology that Kenya acquired from South Africa dubbed rhinoceros DNA index. The technology, meant to protect the equally threatened rhinoceros in the country, allows the Wildlife group to profile the root of the horn of the rhinoceros in case it is intercepted anywhere in the world.
“The poachers are getting smarter and more daring. We can no longer rely on traditional and archaic methods of tracking them. We have to be ahead of them and we feel technology is the only future and long term solution,”Omondi said.
Kenya has so far lost over 360 elephants which are targeted for their ivory. The biggest market for tusks is in Asia where they are used to make ornaments and as aphrodisiac.
Market for Rhinos has equally blossomed in the recent past, with one rhino horn fetching upto Sh1million owing to their curative purposes.
Ol Pejeta Conservancy in Laikipia, home to four of the last seven Northern White rhinos in existence world wide has been one of the worst hit in systemic poaching of the rhinos's horns.
It has so far announced plans to acquire a Sh2million drone which will carry minute by minute aerial surveillance of the area.The drone, the first of its kind to be used for civilian purposes in Kenya has an 80-kilometre range and stay in the air for two hours before they it is recalled for battery recharging. There are 120 rangers in the conservancy whose movement will also be remotely monitored.
The drones will also enable virtual safaris on the conservancy with real-time satellite pictures being transmitted to homes, offices, schools and colleges.
Written by Alvin Kaaga for African Laughter
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