World Wildlife Fund’s (WWF) new anti-poaching technology, a combination of thermal imaging cameras and human detection software, is resulting in poacher arrests in eastern Africa. Nine months after the tech’s installation, more than two dozen poachers have been arrested in the Maasai Mara and two poachers have been apprehended at another undisclosed national park in Kenya.
This is one of the first times this technology is being used outside of the military and law-enforcement to protect wildlife.
“Poachers can no longer use the cover of night to run and hide. Their days of evading arrest are over,” said Colby Loucks, WWF’s Wildlife Crime Technology Project Lead. “Wildlife rangers now have the help they’ve desperately needed. This groundbreaking technology allows them to search for poachers 24 hours a day, from up to a mile away, in pitch darkness. It’s upping the game in our fight to stop wildlife crime across the region.”
In March, WWF, working with the Mara Conservancy ranger unit and the Kenya Wildlife Service, installed FLIR technology on a mobile wildlife ranger unit in the Mara Conservancy. It was also installed, with the addition of human detection software technology, in another Kenyan park. WWF’s technology project has one goal: to deter and arrest poachers unlawfully entering protected parks and illegally killing wildlife.
“This technology is invaluable in our night surveillance work. The ability of our rangers to distinguish potential poachers from a large distance is nothing short of remarkable,” said Brian Heath, CEO and Director of the Mara Conservancy. “The last three people our team arrested were flabbergasted as to how they were detected. Normally they simply sneak away when an ambush is sprung and avoid detection. Now, their heat signatures are picked up by the thermal camera. We’re catching them.”
WWF is working with FLIR Systems Inc., as part of a new collaboration to broaden the use of thermal imaging, and African Parks, UDS and Lindbergh Foundation’s Air Shepherd to install similar thermal imaging technology in drones. Anti-poaching drone test flights began in Zimbabwe and Malawi in October of this year.
WWF’s Wildlife Crime Technology Project is implementing this work with a $5 million dollar grant from Google.org. The grant supports innovative technology that will combat wildlife crime.
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