By Staff Writer
The IBM’s Internet of Things (IoT) technology is being used to help predict threats and combat the poaching of endangered rhinos at Welgevonden Game Reserve in South Africa, with the intent to expand the solution to other reserves in future.
The deployment of IBM’s IoT technology is being harnessed as part of the MTN connected wildlife solution in partnership with Wageningen University (WU) in the Netherlands and Prodapt.
Today South Africa is home to more than 70 percent of the world’s remaining rhino population.
Conservationists are battling to protect the dwindling number of these iconic animals that are being killed for their highly-prized horns.
Over the past decade, more than 7,000 rhinos were killed across the African continent and in 2016, 1,054 were reported killed in South Africa alone.
“One of our primary objectives is to protect wildlife, especially endangered species. We were looking for a solution that would help us better understand possible threats and weed out those coming from poachers so we can react ahead of time and prevent harm to animals,” said Bradley Schroder, CEO of Welgevonden Game Reserve.
“This project will be a profound breakthrough in the creation of connected wildlife solutions, a wildlife management concept that aims to harness IoT technology to better manage and protect wildlife and other assets.”
This new predictive capability stems from research performed by Wageningen University in the Netherlands.
According to research conducted on Welgevonden Game Reserve, prey-animals in the wild react in different ways, depending on the type of threat they encounter and the perceived danger from predators such as lion and leopard or the presence of people in the vicinity.
This research has been combined with MTN’s Connected Wildlife Solution which leverages IBM’s IoT technology and the university’s predictive analytics, to create an innovative solution that gives game reserves a powerful new tool in the fight to save endangered species.
Protecting the rhinos begins with fitting collars containing custom sensors onto prey-animals including zebra, wildebeest, eland, and impala, which will transmit data about their behaviour to the IoT platform.
The data collected from the LoRa sensors is communicated via the LoRa WAN Network Server (LRSC – Long Range Signal & Control) and backhauled over the MTN 3G/4G network.
Through the platform, the solution collects animal location information, movement, direction, and average speed of travel, along with other data. Wageningen University use the data to create approximately 20 rule-based patterns based on the animals’ response to threats. As a result, animals such as zebra will act as sentinels with their response patterns becoming an early warning system to protect the rhinos.
The predictive nature of this solution takes away the reliance on game reserve teams to be in the right place at the right time, or to respond to events, such as the distant sound of gunfire; and the teams can take proactive action that keeps rhinos safe.
“With the solution designed for Welgevonden, MTN, along with our partners, can better predict and anticipate potential poaching activity. This allows the ranger to take pre-emptive action before any threat happens,” says Mariana Kruger, General Manager at MTN Business.
Welgevonden Game Reserve was chosen for its specialist wildlife management expertise, its well-known research and development capabilities as well as its excellent reputation in rhino protection.
“The Internet of Things is changing the way we live and work, and we are finding new applications for IBM’s IoT technologies in businesses across the spectrum. Now we’re helping curb rhino poaching and preserve endangered species on the African continent.” says Hamilton Ratshefola, Country General Manager for IBM South Africa.
“IBM’s IoT solutions enable businesses to solve industry specific problems and transform their companies and industries.”