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Spy Cameras to be fitted to Rhinos to fight against extinction

Rhinos in South Africa are being fitted with spy cameras in the fight against poachers who are decimating the endangered population. As a trial small spy cameras are being installed into rhinos’ horns to capture images of what it can see. Additionally these rhinos are being kitted out with heart-rate monitors and satellite tracking devices so that conservationists can see exactly where the rhinos are being poached.

The system used, known as RAPID or Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device is a British system and a serious attempt to combat the increased poaching of rhinos to prevent total extinction of the species. According to The Independent, it is feared that the rhino could be extinct by 2035 if poaching continues at this rate.

To provide images of the rhino’s point-of-view a small spy camera is inserted into the rhino’s horn by drilling a hole in the front, which although damages the horn is harmless to the rhino itself. This acts as both a deterrent to poachers as well as a surveillance system to gather information of when and where poaching does happen.

A diagram shows how the system works. Img via:
A diagram shows how the RAPID system works. Img via:

Trialling RAPID in South Africa, Chester University’s Dr Paul O’Donoghue has been working with endangered rhinos for over 15 years and has designed RAPID to find a way protect the animals and stop the killing. When a poaching event happens the heart-rate monitor triggers an alarm with a GPS device pin-pointing the location of the animal and the camera capturing visual evidence. This, says Dr O’Donoghue, allows rangers to rush to the scene on a helicopter before the criminals can escape with the valuable parts of the animal.

A researcher with one of the Rhinos from the program - Img via:
Dr O’Donoghue with one of the Rhinos from the program – Img via:

Sadly poaching statistics provide a bleak view to the survival of the rhino – a rhino is killed every six hours in Africa. According to the charity Save the Rhino there was a worldwide population of 500,000 rhinos in the early 20th century but this has dived to just 29,000 remaining today. In recent years in South Africa, where 80% of the world’s rhinos can be found, poachings have increased dramatically: from 13 in 2007 to 1,215 in 2014.
Rhino poaching statistics for Africe. Image Via:

Rhino poaching is not unique to South Africa but it is where information is regularly published and it points towards the wider global issue. Rhino poaching is fuelled by a high demand of their horns because they can be sold on illegal global trade routes. Demand for rhino horns is prevalent Asia, particularly in China and Vietnam, where they are used in traditional Asian medicine although scientifically they are of little medical use.

Should the trial of the RAPID system be successful in the fight against poaching then it is said that the technology could be potentially used to fight poaching of other endangered species in Africa including tigers and elephants.


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