Connected Conservation

By 27 september 2018Blogs

Having learned so much about animal conservation during the years I had the pleasure of looking after the programme publicity for Animal Planet in the Benelux, I am amazed at the giant steps recently made in nature conservation through the development of technology.

Animal Planet has turned me into a nature conservationist and I follow many projects around the world where people are doing incredible work like cleaning garbage out of India’s rivers with a garbage-robot. But one of the most awesome projects is the Ocean Cleanup project. The scale of the problem is so immense that using traditional methods (such as vessels and nets) would take thousands of years and cost way too much for anyone to initiate such an endeavour. This cleanup system uses algorithms to help specify optimal location deployment and is powered by solar energy. It is estimated that the cleanup will now take only (!!) 5 years and at a fraction of the cost.

Dutch inventor Boyan Slat was only 16 years old when he started thinking about how to clean up the massive plastic soup in the Pacific, better known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch. Boyan was recently a guest on DWDD (uitzending gemist: Monday 24 September) to talk about the final ‘dress rehearsal’ they are currently doing with the cleanup system outside of San Francisco. If this works (and I sincerely hope it does) Boyan wants to launch 60 cleanup systems. He cannot do this alone and needs funds, lots of funds! I urge you to donate what you can afford. Check out the site (link above) for details.

Tech develops at warp-speed

I can remember when Animal Planet introduced an innovative new project in 2003 to learn more about the behaviour and language of elephants when they’re in the bush and we cannot track them. Animal Planet researchers installed a camera around the neck of the matriarch, calling it Elevision. This way, we could see and hear them (one had to be within close range to catch the radio signal) while the elephants roamed about undisturbed and unaware of the humans in their environment.

Cameras were also disguised in big heaps of elephant dung, in trees, under rocks, basically using any natural element to disguise them. Of course tracking animals has been going on for quite a while and it has given us many insights. We have learned so much from the data that we now have a much better understanding of many different species and their environment and so become much more effective in our conservation efforts.

Everything Connected

Today, IoT technology helps with a pro-active approach to warn when humans are in the area, rather than focus on tagging the animals. Now the defence system has sensors around the perimeter, LAN and CCTV at every gate, Wifi and LORA technology , as well as drones and thermal cameras everywhere. All passes are scanned and linked to databases via biometrics. This way, poachers can be spotted well before they have a chance to slaughter the animal they are hunting.

One such project is the Connected Conservation program made possible by Dimension Data and Cisco in their effort to save the rhino’s. Started in 2015 they managed to cut rhino poaching by 96% in the first year and are now ready to build on their success in Zambia to reduce local elephant poaching. Check this animated clip to see the future plans to eradicate all forms of poaching around the world. What a great ambition and one that would never be possible without technology. With the developments in tech coming at us in warp-speed, who knows what will be possible in 10 years’ time? From Elevision to Connected Conservation in only 15 years… I can’t wait to see what nature conservation will look like in 2030!

And if you are still wondering why we should put all our efforts in conserving nature and all the animals on our planet, watch ‘Planet Earth’. Produced by BBC and Discovery Networks, as only these two giants in nature documentaries can. Of course they have all the resources at their fingertips, including the latest technology.

The series shows us nature as never seen before thanks to the innovative use of technology. I clearly remember seeing the absolutely stunning images of a giraffe roaming leisurely in a stream without a worry in the world and any inclination that a camera is hanging way above his/her head and giving us full views through the use of super HD 360-degree camera technology and drones. Zooming in on the giraffe, you can count his/her eyelashes – it’s that sharp. And this is just one example of the technology used in the series. Drones show animals in natural behaviour as we have never seen before and the level of detail and the close-ups in HD quality are so stunning, you catch yourself holding your breath in amazement. The second series of Planet Earth is even more spectacular. Showing us again just how beautiful, diverse, and wonderful our planet is and all that live here. It’s the showcase for all the efforts conservationists make and why conserving the planet should be every governments top priority. No ifs, ands or buts!

Marguerite van der Heijden
Sr. Consultant MCSPR | Check Twice