Using technology as a Tool for conservation

The Eye Magazine Rwanda The Insiders Guide To Rwanda

There are less than 1000 Eastern black rhinos in the wild and with the recent reintroduction of 18 black rhinos to  Akagera National Park groundbreaking technologies are being employed with the aim of monitoring and protecting them and helping to improve overall management of the protected area.

Conservation organisations Shadow View and The Internet of Life are behind the ‘Smart Park’ system, a state of the art sensor network which can be used to track vehicles, people or wildlife.

Working with the park management, 12 towers, between 8 – 40 metres high, have been constructed and installed
on high points throughout the park and fitted with LoRa antennas, covering the 1120 km2 park with a private LoRaWAN communication network, a long range, Low-Power Wide-Area Network (LPWAN). The towers collects data from various sensors and feeds the information back to the parks control room in real time. The sensors can be adapted to fit to vehicles, animals, or people. Currently the sensors are tracking the location park vehicles and boats, as a trial, and has been tested over the last eight months with no

major downtime. The location of the vehicles as well as other information, such as traveling speed, GSP location and altitude, can be seen in the parks control room, which is staffed 24-hours a day.

In the near future the technology will be expanded and employed to track any vehicles entering the park so that tourists can be closely monitored for safety and security, as well as adapting the sensors to track wildlife. Several other applications are also possible; monitoring weather, remotely controlled cameras, gate sensors, fence monitoring and sensors for monitoring other assets.

Smart Park network runs locally and does not require any internet connection to function, nor does it rely on phone networks and the system runs entirely on solar power, including the sensors. “This new technology is limitless,
simplified and cost effective. Its application in Akagera National Park has significantly improved the logistical management of vehicle fleets, staff in the field and given a better live picture of the on goings in the park from a distance”, said Jes Gruner, Akagera’s Park Manager.

The sensor data is received in an easy to use web application from within the park’s control room. The locations of the trackers are updated every minute giving real time information. The information is highly secure due to multiple layers of encryption. Together with all the other data being collected from the area such as elephant and lion movements through their satellite collars, and ranger locations from GPS embedded digital radios, it provides the management with an overall picture of what is happening across the park in real time.

 

 

According to Jes Gruner “The most exciting aspect of this is the improved security this system adds for key species of wildlife and the
growing tourism numbers. This is potentially a game-changing application for conservation efforts in Africa and we are excited to be trialing it here in Akagera”. Visit Akagera and do a Behind the Scenes activity to learn more about this new technology helping conservation.
For more information contact; Sarah Hall, Tourism and Marketing Manager, Akagera Management Company, sarahh@african-parks.org.

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