, NAROK, Kenya, Sep 21 – The use of Information and Communication Technology in conservation efforts is quickly gaining ground in the fight against poaching in East Africa.
This was evident at the launch of the Wildlife Information and Landscape Database (WILD) app – a mobile phone data collection application and cloud based database designed to improve collection, sharing, management and analysis of biodiversity information and data in East Africa.
In an Interview with Capital FM News, Chief of Party, PREPARED Project (Funded by the USAID), Scott McCormick said the wide variety of concepts in use of science and technology and gadgetry will help preserve endangered species.
McCormick said the adaptation of Information Technology could also be used to improve the fight against poaching in East Africa.
“The goal was to develop innovative tools that help prevent poaching and Human Wildlife Conflict (HWC),” he said.
The application is created for use by conservation groups — working in conservancies, wildlife management areas, as well as inside and outside national parks and reserves — who need a tool to collect and analyse data that’s related to wildlife from the field.
The application is compatible and can integrate with other data analysis platforms designed for national parks and reserves.
It can be downloaded on ordinary smartphones and has offline capability in case of network unavailability considering that most of the rangers spend their time in the wild where network connection is poor.
Before the launch of the WILD app, over 400 rangers from various conservation organisations were trained for a period of a year and a half on how to use it.
Strathmore University’s iLab Africa are the people responsible for creating the WILD app. Project Manager Tirus Wanyoike said the wide variety of concepts in use of science and technology and gadgetry will help preserve endangered species.
“This app is user friendly where the ranger or the scout in the conservancy is able to operate comfortably as it gives them the option of what language to use which can be either English or Kiswahili and the instructions are accompanied by images to accommodate the semi-illiterate,” Wanyoike said.
Other than recruiting more rangers to man conservancies, parks and reserves, equipping them with up to date weapons, information age technology has the potential to change the game for conservation by continuously monitoring the pulse of the natural world.
The role that computational tools and technology can play in helping monitor, model and respond to the challenges of global biodiversity loss is enormous.
One of the beneficiaries of the WILD App is Mara North Conservancy Ranger Peter Lekumo who said embracing technology in wildlife management would enable them detail incidences that occur, such as poaching, and eventually use the information to support evidence based management decisions.
“Before the app, we faced many challenges in our line of work, mainly that of keeping and recording correct data because we had to do it manually on a piece of paper,” said Lekumo, “But the app has come in handy as now we will be able to record incidences as they occur.”
The information captured in WILD will be stored in a secure online database that allows administrators to access and analyse information collected by their rangers, and use this information to support evidence-based management decisions, such as re-organising patrol routes to cover areas with higher incidents of poaching or Human Wildlife Conflict.
iLab Africa’s Wanyoike said that the app will as well enable administrators to link related incidences that occur over a longer time period; for example, linking a crop-raiding incident with a retaliatory killing that may have happened several days later.
The WILD app will be used in 10 key Mara conservancies with discussions in the pipeline with the KWS on possible integration of their information management system and country programs to fight against sophisticated criminal networks that lead to insecurity.