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High-tech lifeline could save the rhinos

Video highlights from Save This Rhino

Technology tracks humans to save last rhinos.

They are one of the Earth’s most beloved and gentle creatures, with no natural predators – except for the most dangerous predator of all.

And man’s fixation with rhinoceros horn has led to rhinos becoming one of the planet’s most critically endangered species.

Just under a year ago we mourned the passing of one unique species of rhino in Kenya – a northern white rhino – after the death of the last remaining male. The remainder of the world’s 30,000 rhinos is predicted to be extinct soon if we don’t work harder to protect them.

But now these iconic behemoths have been thrown a high-tech lifeline by computer giant Cisco, with a plan to track humans before they can harm them.

Cisco’s solution, is now being pilot tested in the wild to create what could be the future of conservation - a non-invasive technique that tracks humans, not animals.

Cisco is using a combination of long-distance radios, magnetic sensors, acoustic fibre, CCTV, PTZ and Infrared cameras is helping to stop poachers in their tracks.

The pilot deployment of this Connected Conservation solution, developed by Cisco and Dimension Data, has helped a private game reserve enjoy more than 436 days with not one rhino killed.

Cisco’s CTO of Engineering and Chief Architect Dave Ward, says the company is extremely proud to be part of the solution.

“We overcame many limitations faced by game reserves in remote locations, including manual security processes (lock and key), very basic access control, a lack of basic IT infrastructure, limited communications capabilities, and a harsh environment and changing weather patterns,” says Ward.

“More than ever before, technology has given us the ability to change the world – not tomorrow, not someday, but now. “

Ward says many other organisations have committed to protecting endangered animals through various initiatives and devices, including RFID tags.

“However, most initiatives don’t proactively track and monitor the movement of people before they get to the animals.
“We believe that technology can play a part in protecting the species – by enabling better intelligence, vigilance, and access control in game reserves in southern Africa.

“Dimension Data and Cisco are focused on proactively monitoring and tracking people before they get to the rhino. We believe our proactive approach which leverages our skills and technology to monitor the movement of people in the game reserve - from staff, suppliers, contractors, and security personnel, to visitors - will eliminate human error and tighten physical security throughout the reserve.”

Cisco’s high-tech solution will be highlighted later this month, when a powerful new documentary mini-series, Save This Rhino, shines a light on the world’s critically endangered rhinoceros population.

Premiering on National Geographic on Tuesday 23rd April at 8.30pm AEST, the mini-series follows Australian Outback Wrangler Matt Wright and cricketing legends Kevin Pietersen and Graeme Smith as they delve into South Africa’s largest wildlife reserve to uncover the dangers threatening the world’s largest rhinoceros population.

Caption: Kevin Pietersen, Graeme Smith and Matt Wright with Arthur the baby Rhino and Petronel Nieuwoudt.
Photo Credit: Supplied

At the centre of this real-life story are the courageous men and women fighting this conservation war, including Petronel Nieuwoudt, founder of Care for Wild Rhino Sanctuary NPC, and the paramilitary team in charge of protecting Kruger National Park, which is home to 70 per cent of South Africa’s 25,000 rhinos and a prime poaching target – with 32 rhinos killed every month.

As Matt Wright explains, it is these kinds of solutions, along with empowerment of the local community, that can help save the world’s rhinoceros population:

“Filming this series fundamentally changed the way I think about conservation. Rhinos are one of Africa’s ‘Big Five’ and imagining a world without them is almost beyond comprehension. And yet it’s a frighteningly close reality,” he said.

“The work that is being done to save rhinos from extinction is nothing short of awe-inspiring, and I truly believe that the passion of the local community, combined with the technology being implemented, will shift the dial for rhinos. Hopefully this series also encourages the Australian community to act and support the cause.”

Kevin Pietersen echoes: “Creating this documentary was a truly eye-opening experience, and I hope it inspires viewers to contribute to the global conservation effort. Now is the time to create change.”

Lead Image: Arthur, an orphan Rhinoceros.
Photo Credit: Supplied


Save This Rhino will premiere in the lead up to the Cricket World Cup, airing on National Geographic in two parts on Tuesday 23rd and Tuesday 30th April at 8.30pm AEST and then available on demand. 

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