The Stimson Center and Linkoping University, in partnership with local Kenyan authorities and private sector actors around the world, will design a new gold standard for wildlife protection using smart technology and innovation. The pilot project will take place in the Ngulia Rhino Sanctuary in Kenya's Tsavo West National Park and has been designed in close collaboration with rangers, officers, wardens, and Tsavo and Kenya Wildlife Service leadership. Ngulia spans 92 square kilometers, hosts about 10 percent of Kenya's black rhino population, and is encircled by the much larger Tsavo West National Park. The pilot will be conducted to demonstrate the positive impact that robust, but bottom-up, technological security and training systems can have on preventing poaching and will run over an initial two-year timeframe and in three phases.
In the first phase, per the request of the rangers, officers, wardens, and the senior leadership in Tsavo, pilot project partners will deploy a smartphone-based software platform that will serve as a first surveillance system. Rangers and officers will be the primary users of this platform that will serve as, inter alia, a tool for situational awareness throughout Ngulia. A team of trainers, monitors and evaluators will work closely with the Tsavo staff to fully understand the user experience and make adjustments as necessary to the platform and its functionalities. In the second phase, sensor systems will connect to that platform to provide perimeter control, intrusion detection, and wildlife monitoring. In the third phase, advanced network and radar technologies will be applied to provide an overview of a larger area and to detect large objects. Eventually, if appropriate, unmanned aerial systems (UAVs) will hover over the Ngulia perimeter providing video and thermal imaging for all day surveillance of wildlife, intruder detection, and rhino census.
Linkoping University will lead the technical expert and research team and be responsible for management and supervision of technical development and system integration. Ihub will assist in developing the software platform with responsibility for design, user interaction, training, and support. Dr. Wafula Okumu will provide top-of-the line support and advice on African locally driven security capacity building, particularly as it pertains to border security. Stimson will work with other countries, multilateral organizations, peer NGOs, and private industry to scale and replicate this pilot project. Stimson will also seek to engage with other communities as the technical and training approach has applications in such diverse settings from agriculture to protection of critical infrastructures and national borders.
Ngulia was chosen following consultations with the Kenya Wildlife Service in Tsavo. The rangers in Ngulia have military training, but are in need of more sophisticated technology and training to successfully protect the wildlife. It is important that the technology and training capacity-building is not driven by the most sophisticated technology available, but by the needs and current status of the user, the rangers and officers on the ground. The project takes a bottom-up approach by focusing on the needs of the rangers, and project partners will work closely with these rangers throughout the project period and subsequently will layer on additional technological and training capabilities as needed.
July - December 2014 (Phase 1): Assemble a consortium of public and private actors to form the core of the implementation team. Key members of this consortium to date includes Stimson, Linkoping University, Ihub, regional experts, including Dr. Okumu, private sector technology providers, and peer NGOs providing additional thought leadership. This consortium will grow to include other partners as the project progresses. Stimson and its commitment partners will develop the software platform and deploy it in Ngulia. Functionalities in the software will include virtual sensors for motion: position, orientation, alerts (fall, haptic knocks, shot etcetera), text messaging, voice messaging, simple navigation interface, and pointing out objects of interest (animals, footsteps, waterholes etcetera) with photo messaging. Ihub will work closely with the end user in a training and evaluation role and recommend adjustments as necessary. This system will result in a wide range of important information displayed in the software platform, including data tracking, shot detection and localization, a real time map, ranger alarms, footprints, and the like.
January - December 2015 (Phase 2): The project team will advance this basic software platform to include GPS equipment on rhinos, enhanced software for smartphone sensor fusion and add more database functions, including analytics tools for monitoring the mobility of rhinos, which will make them easier to protect by rangers inside of the sanctuary. Ihub will work closely with the rangers to monitor and evaluate the use of the software platform and how the user experience can be improved.
January June 2016 (Phase 3): Project partners will facilitate the deployment of radar surveillance and sensor system for additional perimeter control preventing intrusion into the sanctuary. Specifically, one tower with radar could provide full area coverage for monitoring vehicles and people with rifles. Sensor system will detect human sound and footsteps within the park or at intrusion attempt. Additional surveillance systems, including airborne, will be added as appropriate and include both day and night surveillance of wildlife and intruder detection. Rangers, officers, wardens, and other appropriate personnel will receive specialized training on these technologies by technology providers, as well as by the local team of user experience and border security experts.
January 2016 May 2017: Monitor and evaluate project and begin facilitation of scaling and replicating it elsewhere.
In recent years, over 140,000 elephants and more than 3,600 rhinos have been slaughtered by poachers The illegal wildlife trade has skyrocketed and the U.N. Secretary General, national governments, and independent NGO analyses have drawn direct and indirect links between poaching/wildlife crime and transnational criminal organizations, insurgencies, and even terrorist organizations in Africa. In addition, sharply declining wildlife populations have significant economic consequences for these countries. Indeed, approximately 13 percent of Kenya's GDP comes from the tourism sector, where elephants and rhinos are star attractions, making their disappearance an economic threat as well. In short, poaching and wildlife crime is no longer only conservation challenge; it is also a serious socio-economic and security issue.
Throughout Kenya's national parks, wildlife service personnel are fighting to protect wildlife species. However, they are generally underequipped and in need of training. Amidst the current wildlife crisis, many attempts at technology capacity building and training is underway, but all too many initiatives focus on top-down approaches, including deployment of extremely sophisticated tech systems, such as unmanned aerial systems (UAS) as a first step. These are important components of a holistic technological solution, but focused bottom-up approaches are needed that take into consideration the current level of equipment, technology, and training among the rangers and their officers.
An integrated approach to curb poaching is necessary and should draw on top talent and technology to manage the supply-side of this issue, while not overwhelming partner organizations in the field. In other words, the international community must assist in bringing more robust protection measures to African wildlife sanctuaries and national parks, while at the same time taking into consideration that the most sophisticated system may not be the most appropriate one to start with. In this light, the conservation, development, and security communities must find opportunities to collectively combat the challenge of poaching and wildlife crime. Technology and training must be better utilized in this effort, and any capacity building efforts must be locally driven and designed from the bottom-up. The private sector must also be incentivized to participate in these efforts, particularly local technology actors and entrepreneurs.