Five majestic species of rhino are left in the world: the black and white rhino in Africa, and the Javan, Sumatran and greater one-horned Indian rhino. They’re all facing extinction as their numbers continue to decline.
South Africa is home to almost 80% of the world’s rhinos, but it is also a hotspot for rhino poaching. The misconception that rhino horns have medicinal properties is the main reason they are in demand. Recent statistics show that 11,000 rhinos have been poached in South Africa since 2008.
With fewer than 6,200 black rhinos left in Africa, this majestic species could go extinct in the next five years if poaching continues at this rate.
But a cross-sector team that includes the Connected Conservation Foundation in Kenya, NTT, Dimension Data and Cisco is addressing this challenge by scaling up technology solutions and mobilizing conservation resources. We’re empowering rhino conservationists with tools for conservation management and the protection of this incredible species.
Here are five ways we’re working together to help save rhinos:
1. Equipping ranger teams with game-changing tools to stop poaching
We are helping to safeguard five million hectares of wild ecosystems that are home to the black and white rhino. We’ve installed reserve area networks across the Sabi Sand Game Reserve, the Lewa Wildlife Conservancy, the Great Fish River Nature Reserve and six new conservancies in the Northern Rangelands Trust. This infrastructure connects thermal long-range cameras and low-power, wide-area network (LoRaWAN) sensors. The intelligence from these devices is fed to a central operations room to track the movement of people across the reserve in real time.
This early-warning information is dramatically helping teams protect the rhinos from poachers. In the first two years of deployment, this technology, coupled with conservation management at Sabi Sand, achieved a 96% reduction in poaching.
This year alone, 12 poaching incursions into Sabi Sand have been thwarted with the help of the Connected Conservation Foundation. If each incursion potentially equals a rhino death, that means at least 12 rhinos have been saved from harm.
The most recent deployment is in Madikwe Game Reserve, a key target for rhino poaching. The nonprofit Madikwe Futures Company has been equipped with long-range thermal cameras to monitor boundary and fence lines close to poaching routes. Since the deployment of this technology, all poachers passing by the thermal cameras have been spotted and stopped in their tracks.
2. Ensuring suitable rhino habitats with satellite monitoring
We’re capturing vital rhino-habitat information from space, thanks to our partnership with the Airbus Foundation. Using high-res imagery donated by the foundation, we're mapping water resources, human settlements, grassland cover, road encroachment and invasive plant species to help inform rhino conservation plans. This is allowing Madikwe Game Reserve and Northern Rangelands Trust to make better-informed decisions in adapting to climate-driven events, alongside changing natural resources and human pressures.
These images are also helping Madikwe and Sera Wildlife Conservancy to plan where they should deploy security teams and antipoaching technologies to protect weak spots against poachers. Sadly, at Madikwe, this imagery has also detected deceased rhinos. As distressing as this is, the information can assist conservation efforts by allowing the team to investigate these deaths.
3. Monitoring rhino health during droughts
High-resolution pan, tilt and zoom cameras are streaming live video from five remote watering-holes to monitor rhino health for the Northern Rangelands Trust.
Kenya helped install and connect these live streams to provide real-time video
footage of visiting rhinos at watering-holes in Sera Wildlife Conservancy. This
enables the trust to make quicker observations about the rhinos’ health and
weight, and inform their decision-making on the provision of food and water
during challenging times such as droughts.
Thanks to successful wildlife conservation by the Sera community, the conservancy’s population of black rhinos is recovering. In 2015, 10 rhinos were reintroduced, and within six years, the number doubled. The determined efforts of the community, the rangers and their partners, have resulted in no recent reports of poaching .
4. Enabling inclusive, community-led conservation management
Together with the Northern Rangelands Trust, collaborators are completing a formidable new project: the largest LoRaWAN and reserve area network deployment to date in conservation. Real-time sensors and infrastructure are enabling the collaboration of six community-led conservancies in northern Kenya: the Lewa, Borana, Loisaba, Ol Jogi and Sera conservancies and the Northern Rangelands Trust.
This program enables multiple stakeholders to collaborate on cross-conservancy decision-making, bringing accountability and transparency across neighboring landscapes on conservation activities. The technology is also helping community-led groups share information and showcase the benefits of wildlife conservation, improving the flow of information for community engagement in rhino conservation.
5. Empowering rangers with trackers and communication devices to keep them safe
Rangers play a critical role in protecting our natural heritage but often work in challenging conditions without the resources and support they need. Only 43% of rangers worldwide have access to a communications device on patrol.
Thanks to NTT and Cisco, more than 100 rangers across partner conservancies have been equipped with connectivity and communication devices. They are now always in touch with their control room, so they can ask for help and sound warnings when rhinos or rangers are potentially in danger.
How you can support collaborative rhino conservation
Together, we’ve been delivering large-scale technology projects for protected areas since 2015. We aggregate the best tools from partners including Cisco, NTT, Dimension Data and Airbus Foundation across nine protected areas in Kenya, Zambia and South Africa.
Please donate today to help us boost our conservation capacity to stop poaching, reduce human-wildlife conflict and help restore and rewild healthy habitats for rhinos. A big thank-you to our partners: Cisco, NTT, Dimension Data, Airbus Foundation, Sabi Sand Nature Reserve, Madikwe Futures and Northern Rangelands Trust.
Read more about NTT Sustainability.
Emma Oldham is Communications and Fundraising Manager at the Connected Conservation Foundation.