Tracking technology developed by the Allen Institute for AI, which is funded by the estate of Microsoft Corp.’s late co-founder Paul Allen, will be deployed across national parks in Africa, covering an area almost the size of the UK, in a bid to combat poaching and habitat loss.
The EarthRanger system will be installed in six game reserves in Botswana, Mozambique and Republic of Congo. It will cover areas populated by endangered wildlife ranging from elephants to gorillas and chimpanzees, according to a statement issued by the institute and the project funders and partners, which include the Global Environment Facility and Conservation International.
With wildlife tourism an important source of foreign exchange for many countries in Africa, a failure to protect endangered species could have a knock-on effect on these economies. Poachers who target animals such as rhinos and elephants are often part of organised-crime syndicates and equipped with technology to help them locate targets and quickly transport body parts such as horns or teeth, or even live animals.
The EarthRanger system collates data from sources including collars on animals and vehicle-tracking devices across a wide area, allowing a more efficient allocation of resources to prevent or react to poaching, incursions into parks and degradation of habitats.
Offered as a free service, the tracking system was developed in 2015 as part of the Great Elephant Census, a program to measure the size of Africa’s savanna elephant population by assessing data from aerial surveys, and has since been used to combat poaching and track locust swarms.
The system “will help protected area managers, ecologists, and wildlife biologists make more informed operational decisions for wildlife conservation,” said Claude Gascon, the GEF’s manager of programs.
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