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Can Technology Save the Rhino From Extinction?

A rare white rhino that is now protected by guards.
 (Image: pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)
A rare white rhino that is now protected by guards. (Image: pixabay/CC0 Public Domain)

There is a rhino killed every six hours in Africa, with conservationists fearing the animal’s extinction by 2035. But with a British-made system called Rapid (Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device), things are about to change.

The system would be mounted in their horns and consists of a spy camera, and also has a heart monitor.

With this system fitted on each rhino, it would help in catching poachers.

It is being hailed as a “game changer” by animal protection activists.

Rapid would be linked to an alarm and has a satellite-tracking device that will enable the authorities to act as soon as a rhino is killed. The photos from the camera would then be used as evidence against the poachers.

Rhinos’ horns to be fitted with spy cameras to catch poachers:

According to The Independent, Dr. Paul O’Donoghue of Chester University, who has worked with endangered black rhino populations for more than 15 years, created Rapid following a dramatic surge in rhino poaching, which has increased 9,000-fold since 2007 in South Africa alone.

“Currently, a rhino is butchered every six hours in Africa. The issues are many, but there’s far too much money at stake to believe that legislation alone can make the difference. We had to find a way to protect these animals effectively in the field; the killing has to be stopped,” he said.

“With this device, the heart-rate monitor triggers the alarm the instant a poaching event occurs, pin-pointing the location within a few meters so that rangers can be on the scene via helicopter or truck within minutes, leaving poachers no time to harvest the valuable parts of an animal or make good an escape.

Screenshot 2015-07-24 11.04.21

A hole is drilled into a rhino’s horn, and it is then fitted with a camera. (Screenshot/YouTube)

“You can’t outrun a helicopter. Rapid renders poaching a pointless exercise. The only thing heading for extinction over the next decade is poaching itself,” Steve Piper, the director of Protect Rapid, which is a non-profit organization, added.

There were more than 2,000 northern white rhinos in 1960. Today, there are just five, with the sole male, Sudan, under constant armed guard in Kenya even though his horns have been removed to deter poachers, according to the conservation group WWF.

Claire Bass, executive director of the Humane Society International UK, which contributed funding to the Rapid project, urged others to support it so the devices could be deployed as soon as possible.

“Reducing market demand is critical to safeguard wildlife long term, but it needs to be coupled with urgent, effective action to stop the current poaching crisis.

“The Protect Rapid could be a game changer in the increasingly desperate fight against poaching, and the technology has the potential to be applied to other critically endangered species, including tigers and elephants.

There are alternative products, such as bioengineering synthetic rhino horn, but it’s not going to curb the market demand for the real thing fast enough.

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