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Akagera Park records 25% revenue growth (Rwanda)

By Conservation, Translocation No Comments
Collins Mwai, New Times | January 23, 2020

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Akagera National Park received more than 49,000 visitors and generated $2.5 million in park revenue last year (2019), a 25 per cent increase compared to 2018.

The park’s management said that the revenues made last year account for about 90 per cent of their annual budget.

The number of visitors to the park has grown in recent years since the 2010 signing of a private public partnership agreement African Parks, a non-profit conservation organisation managing 10 national parks and protected areas in seven African countries, took over its management.

Original photo as published by The New Times: Zebras in Akagera National Park. (Photos by Emmanuel Kwizera)

Of the revenue, $525,000 was spent in directly contributing to the local community through salaries of local staff and local purchases in 2019.

Sarah Hall, the Tourism and Marketing Manager at Akagera National Park, told The New Times that they have seen growth in recent years following the public private partnership.

Of the visitors to the park, 48 per cent were Rwandan citizens.

Hall said that there has been growth in interest in the park in recent years while aerial counts show an increase in number of animals in the park.

The aerial census for 2019 has shown an increase in overall animal population with a total of 13,500 animals recorded. This is up from 12,000 counted in 2017.

Last year, the park received five eastern black rhinos from a zoo in Czech Republic further growing interest in the park.

The return of rhinos to the park gave it the ‘Big 5’ status; having lions, buffaloes, rhinos, leopards and elephant.

Before the reintroduction of the rhinos, the park had in 2015 re-introduced lions in Akagera National Park in 2015 after they were translocated from South Africa.

Hall said that they expected to see continued growth in visitors and revenue in the course of the year as Akagera Game Lodge ran by Mantis Group is in the process of renovation.

Hall added that with the road from Kabarondo to the park now tarmacked, they hope to have easier access to the part and consequently more guests.

The park’s peak seasons like most of Rwanda’s tourism facilities are twice annually; July-August and December–January.

In regards to visitor trends, Hall said that there has been an increase in visitors from Francophone countries.

The continued growth and improvement of the park Hall said ought to mean more options and opportunity for local tourism companies as they now have ‘more to sell’ to clients.

British troops help move endangered black rhinos to new home away from poachers

By Conservation, Gaming, Illegal trade, Relocation No Comments
James Hockaday, Metro | Dec 26, 2019

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Vulnerable black rhinos have been relocated away from the eyes of hunters with the assistance of British soldiers.

Troops from the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles teamed up with conservationists, training rangers at Malawi’s Liwonde National Park to improve their patrols in a bid to crack down on the illegal wildlife trade. Only 5,500 black rhinos live in the wild today because hunters have decimated their numbers.

Their horns are removed and sold on to the Far East, where they are ground down and turned into ‘medicine’, aphrodisiacs, or jewellery. Around the end of their three-month assignment, the Gurkhas helped with one of the largest international rhino re-location to date.

Original photo as published by Metro: Only 5,500 black rhinos live in the wild as hunters decimate their numbers. (Picture: PA)

Conservation group African Parks say 17 of the 1.4 tonne animals were hauled by air and road from KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa and taken to a new home in Malawi. Major Jez England, officer commanding the British Army Counter-Poaching Team in Liwonde said the operation had been ‘hugely successful’.

He added: ‘Not only do we share skills with the rangers, improving their efficiency and ability to patrol larger areas, but it also provides a unique opportunity for our soldiers to train in a challenging environment. ‘Helping with the rhino move was a fitting end to our time in Malawi, getting up close to the animals we are here to help protect was an experience the soldiers won’t forget.’

So far, the army has helped train 200 rangers in the country and no high-value species have been poached in Liwonde since 2017.

The project was led by African Parks in conjunction with Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife. It aims to boost the rhino population in the region and preserve this critically endangered species for the next generation. Since their release, African Parks is continuing to monitor the animals as they settle in to their new home.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest transnational crime behind drugs, arms and human trafficking and can have hugely destabilising consequences.

He added: ‘With this deployment, our armed forces have once again demonstrated their versatility and value by contributing to the conservation work taking place in Malawi.

‘Working with local communities, host governments and wildlife groups is key to our approach, we want to see sustainable, community-led solutions that help promote security and stability for both the people and wildlife of Africa.’

The counter-poaching ranger partnering programme is funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs (Defra) and delivered by the British Army.

The UK Government has committed over £36 million to tackle the illegal wildlife trade between 2014 and 2021. Part of this is to help support transboundary work to allow animals to move more safely between areas and across national borders.

Want to Stop Poaching? Build a Smart Park

By Antipoaching No Comments
Jennifer Leigh Parker, Forbes | December 24, 2019

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Matt Yardley has just heard his favorite sound. It’s a radio dispatch in Zulu telling him that roughly three miles away, two alpha male lions have killed a giraffe, and are ravenously wolfing it down. Naturally, his trained ranger response is to chase this sighting at full speed in our Land Cruiser across the achingly wild, verdant expanse known as the andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve in the KwaZulu-Natal Province of South Africa.

What we come upon, two gluttonous brothers resting after the feast, is almost as interesting as what we’ve passed along the way. A dazzle of zebras, journey of giraffes, herd of elephant, and a crash of rhino. But not just any rhino. Black rhino—of which there are roughly only 5,000 in the world, according to the World Wildlife Fund. That’s a fraction of the estimated 100,000 that existed a few decades ago.

Original photo as published by Forbes: Rhinos at andBeyond Phinda Private Game Reserve. (PHOTO BY JENNIFER LEIGH PARKER)

In Phinda, black rhino are thriving in large part because of Tara Getty’s family trust. The grandson of the late oil tycoon J. Paul Getty passed us in his own Land Cruiser, either leaving or returning from the rentable enclave known as the Phinda Zuka Lodge. “He’s the private jet guy,” says Yardley, a senior game ranger for the luxury travel company andBeyond, which is owned by multiple shareholders, including the Gettys. “Ever seen the movie All the Money in the World?”

I haven’t. But the sheer beauty and scale of this teeming-with-game landscape evokes the film’s title. In 1991, the Gettys helped turn what was pineapple and cattle farmland into Phinda, which means “the return” in Zulu. Without the Gettys, Phinda probably wouldn’t exist. And if this massive 28,555 hectare (70,560 acres) park wasn’t surveilled on a 24-hour basis by andBeyond conservationists, the rhino wouldn’t be here either.

Poaching in South Africa is as bad as it’s ever been, which reflects the country’s 29% unemployment rate. Just next door, Hluhluwe Imfolozi Park is facing severe government budget cuts, and losing hundreds of rhino a year to poachers. The impact is sobering.

“Conservation doesn’t pay for itself. Tourism alone can’t cover all the costs, so most game parks must rely on donors,” says Simon Naylor, Phinda Reserve Manager. “We pay fixed leases every month, which are very high. Security is the most expensive aspect. It’s about 8 million rand [$560,000 USD] annually to secure Phinda. So when we talk about investing in tech, it’d better be worth it, hey?”

Currently, Phinda is equipped with satellite tags, ultra-high frequency (UHF) ear tags manufactured by African Wildlife Tracking, UHF receivers, and a cloud-based storage platform called CMORE that receives incoming data, and displays it on a screen that resembles Google Earth maps. Ear tags were deployed here in May 2019, and are designed to inform drones that fly over the reserve and send back location data—that is, if thick forest cover doesn’t get in the way, or the tag’s battery hasn’t died.

The Biggest Threat is Internal

Management says dehorning the rhino (a major production involving vets, helicopters, immobilizing drugs, and expert rangers) is still the most effective weapon against poaching. Having recently increased their rhino count from 150 to over 200, you can see why they take that view. Perversely, Phinda’s biggest poaching threat comes from its own staff, which includes roughly 80 full time field rangers with boots on the ground. Naylor explains: “Often, someone inside is approached by syndicates and is blackmailed into providing information. Some just want the money.

The goal is to catch them before they do it.”

You’d think all the money in the world could put an end to poaching. But the reality is not that simple. You also need best-in-class security, law enforcement, and advanced technology to track not just the animals in the park, but people too. Enter big data and, for the first time in the African conservation industry, artificial intelligence. When you need cameras to decipher the difference between images of trucks, animals, safari guests and poachers, AI is the way forward.

“Increasingly, people are seeing the power of tech to support law enforcement. We’re a long way off from cyborgs doing it all for you. Until we get there, it’s a partnership between people,” says Craig Reid, manager at Malawi’s Liwonde National Park for African Parks, a well funded NGO operation that manages 16 National Parks and protected areas across Africa. Many conservationists are looking to them to lead the way.

The Rise of Smart Parks

When I speak with Reid, it sounds like he’s calling from paradise. With birdsong in the background, there is a warm honey lilt in his Namibia-born voice, shaped by a life spent outdoors in the African bushveld. He’s just come back from an afternoon tracking black rhino on foot, despite having access to Liwonde’s high-tech control room that could have done the job for him. In fact, it did.

“I knew where he was by looking at our computers. You know, I’ve been in conservation for nearly 30 years, and to see where our rhino are in real-time just by logging in is just incredible,” says Reid.

Right now, African Parks is testing a newly installed “low power wide-area network” in Liwonde, which follows its first “smart park” installation in late 2017, inside Rwanda’s Akagera National Park. These networks capture all the data from the park’s tracking devices, and feed it into a platform called EarthRanger by Vulcan Inc. Essentially, it’s data visualization and analysis software designed to “bridge the data gap” in wildlife conservation. African Parks is a fan of EarthRanger, because it allows a huge number of assets to be detected and analyzed in real-time.

To cover Liwonde National Park’s 540 square kilometers (133,437 acres), African Parks has set up 11 towers equipped with “gateways,” which are surveillance gadgets receiving messages from devices in the park. For example, if there is a transmitter on a cheetah’s collar, that collar will transmit the GPS location to the tower, which will be received in the control room. This enables African Parks to embed GPS long range (LoRa) sensors into rhino horns.

In and of itself, this strategy represents a major shift in game park management, because it ends the need for expensive satellite transmission fees. “We’re still paying off the construction of these networks. But, overtime, you can track your assets without satellite. That is the long term savings,” says Geoff Clinning, IT manager for African Parks. He’s known as the organization’s tech guru.

When I ask him why these networks exist only in two of his 16 managed parks, he says: “You have to prove the tech first before you adopt it everywhere. A smart park is one tool in your toolbox, that can have massive benefits. It’s not a silver bullet, but it makes your toolbox far more powerful.”

Of course, stopping poachers isn’t just a matter of knowing where your game is. It’s knowing where poachers are, too. This is where AI comes in. “Poacher Cams” are placed throughout the park. When the camera takes a picture, triggered by a motion detector, an algorithm analyses the picture and if it decides if it’s a human form. Inside the 24-hour control room, an alert pops up on EarthRanger, with the image attached. Operators then inform management and a response is initiated. This strategy has consistently led to the successful conviction of criminal poachers. South Africa’s Kruger National Park, one of Africa’s largest game reserves, is having similar success using radar cameras they call “meerkats,” which function much the same way, using night vision and artificial intelligence.

Combined, this managed tech is one way to avoid having to de-horn the rhinos in the first place. It’s a reactive strategy, to be sure. The logic is that the combination of real-time location data and smart poacher cams will not only result in convictions, but also act as a strong deterrent. “This is all relatively new in the conservation space. We’ve just done a major introduction of rhinos into the park, and we’re pushing to get the horn transmitting right. Within six to 12 months, we’ll be off satellite tracking altogether. It will all be done through the wide-area network,” adds Craig Reid.

If he’s right, African Parks will have changed the world of safaris.

Already, the top rated luxury safari outfitters in the world, including andBeyond and Wilderness Safaris, are watching these developments very closely. In Rwanda’s Akagera National Park, for example, Wilderness Safaris’ Magashi Camp shares its game sightings data with African Parks, using similar software. Yet healthy skepticism remains, even among the most passionate conservationists.

“It’s critical that managers don’t look to technology as a panacea,” says Dr. Neil Midlane, Group Sustainability Manager at Wilderness Safaris. “Traditional strengths such as sufficient numbers of well-equipped personnel must first be in place. Then, the criminal justice system needs to be intact and functional. Once these elements are in place, strategic deployment of surveillance technology, along with appropriate data aggregation structures, can significantly increase the effectiveness of law enforcement efforts.”

All the money in the world doesn’t buy you a successful smart park. It takes will, dedication, and focused collaboration to save Africa’s endangered species. And if AI is acting as our eyes and ears, it’s clear we still need the human heart.

 

British troops help relocate endangered black rhinos as part of anti-poaching mission (Malawi)

By Antipoaching, Translocation One Comment
Sky News | December 26, 2019

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Troops from the 2nd Battalion Royal Gurkha Rifles have recently come back from a three-month counter-poaching deployment in Malawi, southeastern Africa.

Based in Liwonde National Park, near the border with Mozambique, they worked in conjunction with African Parks, a conservation organisation.

They trained current and new rangers in a bid to crack down on the illegal trade by improving the effectiveness of patrols.

Original photo as published by Sky News: The troops worked in conjunction with African Parks, a conservation organization.

While they were there, the soldiers helped with one of the biggest international rhino translocations so far, offloading the 1.4-tonne animals which had been transported by air and road from KwaZulu-Natal in South Africa.

The mission saw 17 black rhinos moved from South Africa to Malawi, according to African Parks.

There are around 5,500 black rhinos in the wild today.

Major Jez England, officer commanding British Army Counter-Poaching Team in Liwonde, described the operation as “hugely successful”.

He added: “Not only do we share skills with the rangers, improving their efficiency and ability to patrol larger areas, but it also provides a unique opportunity for our soldiers to train in a challenging environment.

“Helping with the rhino move was a fitting end to our time in Malawi, getting up close to the animals we are here to help protect was an experience the soldiers won’t forget.”

The army has helped train 200 rangers in Malawi – and no high-value species have been poached in Liwonde since 2017.

Malawi’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife Ezemvelo KZN Wildlife also worked on the project.

It will help boost the rhino population in the region and help preserve the critically endangered species for the next generation.

The 17 rhinos have been monitored intensely since their release, as they settle in to their new environment.

Defence Secretary Ben Wallace said the illegal wildlife trade is the fourth largest transnational crime behind drugs, arms and human trafficking and can have hugely destabilising consequences.

He added: “With this deployment, our armed forces have once again demonstrated their versatility and value by contributing to the conservation work taking place in Malawi.

“Working with local communities, host governments and wildlife groups is key to our approach, we want to see sustainable, community-led solutions that help promote security and stability for both the people and wildlife of Africa.”

The UK government has committed more than £36m to tackle the illegal wildlife trade between 2014 and 2021, with the counter-poaching ranger partnering programme funded by the Department for Environment, Food and Rural Affairs.

African Parks’ most hopeful conservation news in 2019

By Conservation, Land conservation, Science and technology No Comments
African Parks / PR Newswire | December 18, 2019

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JOHANNESBURG: Successful conservation interventions are critical, now more than ever, to improve the trajectory of the planet’s biodiversity and the state of its ecosystems, as highlighted in the IPBES global biodiversity assessment published this year. Well managed protected areas are vital anchors of sanctuary, stability and opportunity for millions of people and countless species.

With the largest and most ecologically diverse portfolio of parks under management by any one organisation across Africa, African Parks’ goal is to realize the ecological, social and economic value of these landscapes, preserving ecological functions, delivering clean air, healthy watersheds, carbon sequestration, food security, and better health for millions of people.

Here is some of their most hopeful news from 2019:

  • Zimbabwe’s exceptional Matusadona National Park which abuts Lake Kariba became the 16th park to join African Parks’ management portfolio. Through partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority, they will fully restore the park as a leading wildlife sanctuary for the region.
  • One of history’s largest international black rhino translocations was concluded with the WWF Black Rhino Range Expansion Project, using source populations in South Africa to boost Malawi’s population to create a valuable range state for the critically endangered species.
  • The largest ever transport of rhinos from Europe to Africa was undertaken, releasing five Eastern black rhinos, bred successfully by the European Association of Zoos and Aquaria Ex Situ Programme, into Rwanda’s Akagera National Park, helping to build a sustainable wild population of this subspecies numbering only around 1,000 in Africa.
  • Cheetahs were introduced to Majete Wildlife Reserve in Malawi to form a crucial founder population and help grow the range of the vulnerable big cat; and almost 200 buffalo were released into Zambia’s Bangweulu Wetlands to restock one of the continent’s greatest wetland landscapes.
  • 100 years of conservation was celebrated with the Barotse Royal Establishment and Zambia’s Department of National Parks and Wildlife (DNPW) in Liuwa Plain National Park with the official opening of the world class King Lewanika Lodge. The event was testament to their 16-year partnership to restore the ecosystem, promote livelihoods development, provide employment, education, and support to thousands of people, while seeing the park emerge as one of the world’s top travel destinations hailed by The New York Times and TIME Magazine.
  • TIME Magazine featured Chad’s Zakouma National Park on its list of World’s Greatest Places 2019, and Akagera National Park in Rwanda continued to see remarkable strides in tourism development, with Wilderness Safaris opening the gorgeous luxury tented Magashi Camp.
  • With several partners they have installed the most advanced technology available, from Vulcan’s EarthRanger, ESRI, Smart Parks, and others, to improve real-time monitoring of wildlife and to support law enforcement within the parks.

These advancements are only possible because of the partnerships with national governments who entrust African Parks with managing their natural heritage. Their shared vision of a future for people and wildlife is realised through the generous funding received from a global community of committed supporters, including anchor donors: Acacia Conservation Fund (ACF), Adessium Foundation, Arcus Foundation, Dutch Postcode Lottery, European Union, Fondation des Savanes Ouest-Africaines (FSOA), Fondation Segré, Government of Benin, Howard G. Buffett Foundation, MF Jebsen Conservation Foundation, National Geographic Society, Oppenheimer Philanthropies, People’s Postcode Lottery, Save the Elephants and Wildlife Conservation Network’s Elephant Crisis Fund, Stichting Natura Africae, The Walton Family Foundation, The Wildcat Foundation, The Wyss Foundation, WWF-the Netherlands, WWF-Belgium, UK Aid, U.S. Department of State and USAID.

Overall, these gains are only possible because of the myriad support received, from events to charitable auctions and races, recommendations to friends, travel to the parks, bequests and helping to tell the story of the urgency of the conservation work, and to generous board members in Hong Kong, the Netherlands, Switzerland, the U.S. and South Africa.

Source: African Parks

Related links: www.africanparks.org

 

Prince Harry to pump R118m into Zimbabwe rhino conservation

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Lenin Ndebele, Business Live | November 5, 2019

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British royal Prince Harry wants to invest $8m (about R118m) in the next five years as part of a joint venture between his African Parks NGO and Zimbabwe government’s national parks (ZimParks) to revive the country’s flagship rhino haven.

The 1,407km2 Matusadona National Park — also known as Kariba National Park — is in the northwest of Zimbabwe on the southern shores of Lake Kariba. It used to house about 35% of Zimbabwe’s black rhino population.

However, years of abandon and syndicate-led poaching destroyed the park, which was created in 1958 when conservationist Rupert Fothergill orchestrated “Operation Noah” and moved animals away from the newly constructed Kariba Dam.

Today, animals struggle to get by. There is diminished interest from tourists, with park chalets and other infrastructure for human habitations destroyed.

It appears the interest of Prince Harry, who was officially named African Parks’ president in December 2017, comes just in time. “We are extremely delighted,” said ZimParks spokesperson Tinashe Farawo.

The joint venture between African Parks and ZimParks gives the new investor a shareholding of 49% with the Zimbabwe government, through ZimParks, retaining 51%. Profits will be shared on a quarterly basis.

“It’s a business-structured deal that should see us working together for the next 20 years. Day-to-day running of the park will be an inclusive affair on a rotational basis,” said Farawo.

Considering the damage to infrastructure at the park, the next five years will be mostly dedicated to reconstruction using money brought in by the investor. “They have their own way of sourcing funds and in our contract within the next five years they should have ploughed in $8m,” he said.

Farawo said that the highlight of the agreement is the re-introduction the black rhinoceros, which has been completely wiped out from the park by poaching. The few rhinos that survived at the height of the onslaught were shipped to other secure areas.

Writing in the UK’s Daily Telegraph a few weeks ago, after his visit to Africa, Prince Harry said, “Matusadona is a very special place for Zimbabwe and has a lot of potential for tourism and socio-economic development.”

The deal was signed by African Parks CEO Peter Fearnhead and ZimParks director-general Fulton Mangwanya on Friday, November 1. At the signing, Fearnhead emphasised that his organisation works in 10 African countries and manages more than 10-million animals in 16 parks — and that working in Zimbabwe would be routine.

ZimParks officials said Prince Harry’s profile and wide international goodwill is a major boost for the park at a time when Zimbabwe’s international reputation is in tatters.

Said a senior ZimParks employee, “At a government and diplomatic level things are bad. Our leaders are bickering over sanctions and other things; but at our level, we have a British royal family member working with us. That’s a seal of approval and, as such, tourists have no reason to worry about what politicians say.”

Prince Harry’s conservation charity African Parks takes on neglected Zimbabwean national park

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Land conservation, Translocation No Comments
Victoria Ward & Peta Thornycroft, The Telegraph | November 3, 2019

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The Duke of Sussex’s African Parks has taken over the management of one of Zimbabwe’s most neglected national parks that has fallen victim to rampant poaching. It aims to reform the 1,000 square mile Matusadonha National Park’s elephant and black rhino populations and transform it into a leading safari destination.

The Duke spent almost three weeks working with African Parks in Malawi in 2016 as the organisation embarked on one of the biggest elephant translocation projects in conservation history. He returned to the Liwonde National Park Headquarters in September for an update on its progress.

Writing in this newspaper during his recent tour of southern Africa, he revealed that the experience three years earlier had taken his understanding and respect for conservation to a “whole new level”.

Original photo as published by The Telegraph: Prince Harry at the Chobe National Park, Botswana, in September. (CREDIT: DOMINIK LIPINSKI/POOL VIA AP)

In 2017, he became president of African Parks, a sign of his personal commitment to the region. Peter Fearnhead, its chief executive, was a guest at his wedding to Meghan Markle.

Matusadonha National Park, in northern Zimbabwe, is flanked by the giant Lake Kariba and has two rivers running through it.

Frances Read, from African Parks, said it was one of the country’s flagship and most valuable areas, with the potential to become a leading safari destination.

But it is fraught with challenges and in desperate need of funding and proper management, which it will undertake in partnership with the Zimbabwe Parks and Wildlife Management Authority. Poachers have all but wiped out its black rhino population whilst elephant numbers have been severely depleted.

Ms Read said the first job will be to secure its borders to allow wildlife populations to recover and rebound naturally before implementing effective management structures and law enforcement strategies.

“We will then be working with the local community so they start to see that this is for them and that this is an asset,” she said. “Matusadonha is a very special place for Zimbabwe and has a lot of potential for tourism and socio-economic development.”

The 20-year contract awarded to African Parks – its first foray into the country – is considered all the more remarkable by conservationists who had thought it highly unlikely that the government of Zimbabwe would ever allow a foreign organisation to take control of its wildlife resources.

Blondie Leatham, one of Zimbabwe’s best known conservationists and safari operators, said: “This is one of the most exciting things that has happened for wildlife in Zimbabwe for a very long time.”

The Duke recently described the continent as his “second home” and has made no secret of the special place it holds in is heart, having first travelled there in the immediate aftermath of the death of his mother, Diana, Princess of Wales, in 1997.

During his recent tour of southern Africa with the Duchess of Sussex and their son, Archie, he revealed their “life work will be predominantly focused on Africa, on conservation.”

Whilst in Malawi in 2016, the Duke expressed great concern for conservation parks, saying: “I do worry. I think everyone should worry. We need to look after them, because otherwise our children will not have a chance to see what we have seen. This is God’s test: If we can’t save some animals in a wilderness area, what else can’t we do?”

African Parks is a non-profit NGO working with governments and local communities. Its latest agreement with Zimbabwe, signed on Friday, takes the number of parks it manages to 16 in 10 countries covering almost 11 million hectares.

‘Holy grail in rhino monitoring’ deployed in Liwonde National Park

By Antipoaching, Conservation, Science and technology No Comments
Smart Parks | October, 7 2019

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Smart Parks and African Parks have successfully implanted the first GPS LoRaWAN™ enabled transmitters into the horns of two eastern black rhinos at Liwonde National Parks in Malawi.

The devices provide park management with a real-time position of the critically endangered rhinos every hour. The locations are collected by the Smart Parks network and presented in the control room situated at the headquarters of the park. By knowing the whereabouts of the animal, the park can allocate its resources to protect the rhino more efficiently.

Original photo as published by Smart Parks: A vet carefully places the rhino sensor © Jonas Eriksson/ African Parks

The new lightweight, long term, sustainable method of rhino monitoring is already referred to by some park managers as the “holy grail in rhino monitoring”. Craig Reid, park manager of Liwonde National Park, adds:

“The insertion of the GPS tracker unit in the horns of our rhino enables accurate live time tracking, a significant development in the monitoring and security of this vulnerable species. This is one of the most significant breakthroughs in rhino conservation in recent times.”

The new GPS-rhino tracker uses LoRaWAN™ to communicate, making it one of the most secure devices in the field of conservation. The protocol uses well-vetted algorithms for end-to-end security.

In previous situations, rhinos were tracked by either a VHF-tracker or a LoRaWAN™ Geoloc solution. The VHF tracker required a ranger to go into the field and detect the signal, which made it very labor-intensive and also a risk to security. The LoRaWAN™ Geoloc method (also introduced by Smart Parks) requires significant infrastructure and is less accurate than the GPS-tracker.

The rhino sensor is provided to parks for 150 euro. Smart Parks was able to develop this affordable sensor thanks to financial supporters of the Smart Parks Foundation, but also thanks to the vital support by the companies TAOGLAS, IRNAS, and the University of Amsterdam.

Important information for wildlife protectors
Smart Parks is equipping another 30 rhinos with the new tracker before the end of the year. Wildlife managers and conservationists can make pre-orders for new deployments or enquiries for collaborations by contacting:

Laurens de Groot
Laurens@smartparks.org
+31642299727