Animals like these tigers are under constant attack from illegal poachers. (Photo: Schafer & Hill/Getty Images)
This needs to be said: We’re losing the war on poaching. It’s far from over, but right now we are definitely in the losing position. Carter Roberts, president of the The World Wildlife Fund, says on his organization’s site, “We face an unprecedented poaching crisis. The killings are way up. We need solutions that are as sophisticated as the threats we face.” That means it’s time to get serious− like crime-fighting, super-hero, spyware-technology-using serious. And that means we’re calling up the drones− not to attack poachers, but to catch them before they kill.
This week, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) announced its receipt of a $5 million grant, courtesy of Google’s Global Impact Awards to test advanced technology in the fight against animal crime. If it works, the new system will include sensors placed in wildlife environments and on the animals themselves, which would be monitored by a network of surveillance drones overhead. When poachers are detected, the drones will signal mobile ranger patrols on the ground to move in, hopefully stopping the poachers’ attack.
But with Google’s new funding, these efforts will now be tested in four more sites in Africa and Asia.
In addition, part of the funding will go to investigating a method of using animal DNA to track animal parts sold globally, uncovering pathways of sale within the black market operation. This information could definitively connect the dots between those doing the killing, and the private collectors doing the buying.
According to Popular Science, WWF’s initiative is a build-out of previous systems used to stop the illegal hunting of endangered species. One of those utilized, was the installation of a GPS-tracking chip into the horns of endangered rhinos. The chip was linked to a specially-programmed cellphone, sending alerts depending on what the animal was doing and where it was moving.
But the conservation agency says something much larger in scope is needed now, preferably one that tracks bigger picture activity versus only focusing on one animal at a time. According to Roberts statement, “We need solutions that are as sophisticated as the threats we face. This pushes the envelope in the fight against wildlife crime.”
A Bay Area native, Andri Antoniades previously worked as a fashion industry journalist and medical writer. In addition to reporting the weekend news on TakePart, she volunteers as a webeditor for locally-based nonprofits and works as a freelance feature writer for TimeOutLA.com.Email Andri | @andritweets | TakePart.com