21st Century innovations being used to save the Rhino
Rhino poaching in South Africa and across the world has reached devastating proportions in recent years. Data released in 2015 by the South African Department of Environmental Affairs suggests that on average 3 rhinos are being killed every day. This is a worrying statistic as it means that the death rate of rhinos could overtake their birth rate by as early as 2018. Unless something dramatic is done to stop these killings we could see the extinction of rhinos in the wild within the next decade.
In order to keep up with the increasingly sophisticated techniques of rhino poachers some innovative solutions have been developed in the fight against rhino poaching in recent years.
Scientists from the San Diego Zoo and the Leibniz Institute for Zoo and Wildlife Research in Berlin have come up with an innovative plan for saving the northern white rhino from the brink of extinction. The aim is to produce healthy embryos, using pluripotent stem cells from the remaining 2 female northern white rhinos, which will then be implanted into a southern white rhino of which approximately 20,000 are still in existence. The team involved agree that the process will be problematic however are confident that they can overcome the challenge within a matter of years.
In 2013 Kenya embarked on a project of implanting microchips into its entire population of 1,030 rhinos. Each rhino received 2 microchips of less than 2 inches in length. One chip inserted into the horn and another one on an unidentified part of the body. Although a time consuming and dangerous procedure it allows the entire population to be monitored and provides investigators with up to date information when prosecuting poachers. Other countries like South Africa have also adopted this approach however due to the risks involved to the animals more non-invasive techniques are being developed to protect the species. See “connected conservation” below.
Unmanned surveillance drones are one of the latest technological innovations being used to protect rhinos and other endangered species across the globe. The drones help to improve communication and information sharing amongst the wildlife conservation community. They also assist law enforcement by mapping out the locations of killed animals as well as the source and destination of the horns which helps to identify connections between buyers, sellers and smugglers.
Connected conservation is a pilot scheme being run at a private game reserve in South Africa by tech firm Dimension Data and networking firm Cisco who have joined forces to track human activities in and around the reserve. Due to the remote locations of the rhinos it has always been difficult to monitor and react to potential threats to their safety. Wi-Fi hotspots and a Reserve Area Network have been installed with the aim of preventing illegal entry into the reserve. If successful the scheme will be rolled out to other reserves in South Africa and Africa and will help to protect other endangered species too.
Rhinorails supports the protection of the rhino by donating £3 from every heated towel rail sold to Save the Rhino International (UK registered charity 1035075). Save the Rhino International collaborates with a number of partners across Asia and Africa with a vision of protecting all five rhino species. For more information visit https://www.savetherhino.org