This was after conservationists from the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) won the grant from Google’s Global Impact Awards to install a network of next generation cameras to help stop rhinos being slaughtered by gangs of armed poachers.
The crucial funding will see cameras with automated sensors installed in poaching hotspots within months – saving hundreds of animals over the next two years. As well as instantly transmitting images of park intruders to the rangers, the cameras can detect vehicles from vibrations and triangulate the sound of gunshots, so that park rangers can pinpoint the location of poachers and intervene immediately.
A public surge of support for the project saw huge numbers of people vote online for ZSL to receive this critical funding ahead of nine other finalists.
“These life-saving cameras will help stop the slaughter of rhinos, which has seen more than 1,000 killed in Africa in just eighteen months,” ZSL’s field conservation director, Prof Jonathan Baillie, said.
Kenya Wildlife Service Director, William Kiprono, said the award was a milestone in the protection of critically endangered species in large areas such as Tsavo which are more difficult to manage.
“We appreciate the continued partnership and collaboration with the Zoological Society of London which we have had for more than 20 years in veterinary services, species and ecological monitoring.”
Kiprono also thanked Google for organising the innovative cyber competition and the online voters globally who made it possible.
“This funding fits well with the KWS vision of “saving the last great species and places on earth for humanity” and the national strategy of having 2,000 black rhinos conserved in their natural areas.”
“Technology is just one of the means to help us better protect endangered species in larger areas such as Tsavo,” Kiprono added, noting that Kenya and other parts of Africa have been experiencing an all-time high in poaching incidents and needed help.
The KWS Director noted that the government was committed to reviewing wildlife policy and law with a view to enhancing penalties to deter poachers and traffickers in contraband wildlife products.
This year alone Kenya has lost 24 rhinos to poachers, including seven countrywide last week, some in the Tsavo.
Kenya had 631 black rhinos and 394 white rhinos by the end of last year.
Kiprono called on other stakeholders to support conservation of endangered species through other means including but not limited to diplomatic approaches, education and public awareness campaigns.
KWS Rhino Coordinator Ben Okita said the Google funding through ZSL was a much welcome proactive reaction to the global poaching crisis.
“This will go a long way in protecting the endangered black rhino while we seek more sustainable and long term solutions to the poaching problem.”