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Connected Conservation: 3 things we're doing differently in creating a safe haven for rhino

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A remote unnamed game reserve near the Kruger National Park is the last place you’d expect to find leading-edge technology in action.

But that’s exactly where you’ll find the Connected Conservation solution which proves that digital innovation such as the Internet of Things, cloud, and data analytics – aren’t just for big business anymore.

Connected Conservation is a joint initiative with Cisco, aimed at reducing the number of rhinos being poached in South Africa. Together our two companies have deployed some of the world’s most sophisticated technology in a move to proactively intervene and stop potential poachers entering the reserve illegally before they could get to the rhino.
From an early age, I’ve been passionate about wildlife – it’s always been part of my life.
With rhino poaching in South Africa at a crisis point, we wanted to help before the species disappeared altogether. While there had been great initiatives to protect the rhino over the years which was primarily reactive, the number of these animals being killed was increasing at an alarming rate.

We weren’t the only ones who cared. Top international entrepreneurs and global corporates had also invested to protect our rhinos. We knew that if we were to achieve real results, we’d have to do things differently and take a proactive approach to tracking and monitoring the people in the reserve – and especially without touching the animals.

Working together

First, we met with the rangers, security personnel, people working in the control centres, and communities at the reserve to plot out what we needed to plan for a remote location with basic IT infrastructure and access control, manual security processes, and very limited communication.

This is where the US Cisco team showed the value of partnership. Working with a Dimension Data team in South Africa, they created a Reserve Area Network (RAN) that underpinned the overarching security ‘net’ of the area.

Like us, Cisco believes technology can change lives – not just businesses. It has the power and reach to transform society and our natural environments.

In March, Cisco and Dimension Data commenced phase one of the pilot Connected Conservation. We followed three simple but powerful principles.

1. Keeping the right people in touch …

Our first step was to create a highly secure Reserve Area Network (RAN) using Cisco technology. In addition, we installed Wi-Fi hotspots around key points, so that our people on the ground could collaborate in real-time on mobile

2.To keep the wrong people out of the reserve …

We digitised the security process. Staff can now collect data on people and vehicles entering the reserve – such as biometrics (fingerprint recognition of staff), ID and passport scans of visitors, and license plate numbers. They can reliably estimate when an individual or vehicle will be leaving the reserve for tighter control. The security team can also share information on known or suspected criminals with a national database – keeping them away from the rhino.

3. So rhinos can roam free in a safe haven …

South Africa is home to 70% of the remaining rhinos in the world. Rhino on the reserve are a major tourist attraction and a source of employment for local communities. We didn’t believe the animals should be subjected to intrusive and often unsafe protection methods – like dehorning or tracking devices.
Our solution doesn’t touch the animals. It allows them to roam freely in a safe haven – as it should be. We monitor the movement of people, who are often the real threat to this magnificent species, as well as others.

What’s next?

Phase two of the Connected Conservation which will be completed in October, will incorporate CCTV, drones with infrared cameras; thermal imaging, vehicle tracking sensors, as well as seismic sensors on a highly secure intelligent network. In fact, it’s no longer the Internet of Things, but truly the Internet of Everything.

Watch Can data save Africa’s rhinos from the guns of poachers? – a CNN exclusive below, or take a deeper look at the Connected Conservation solution.

Previous Article: Digital disruption technology changes the way we think about rhino conservation Next Article: Transform to survive. Innovate to thrive.

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