Protecting Endangered and Vulnerable Species with IoT

June 16, 2020

In a previous article, we discussed how IoT is working to protect dwindling bee populations. Further conservation efforts powered by IoT are taking place around the world – protecting animals such as lions, rhinos, herd animals and sea life.

IoT is Spotting Poachers

Dimension Data and Cisco first tested Connected Conservation to protect rhinos in a South African reserve in 2015. The system uses sensors, cameras and biometrics to track people entering a set perimeter and alerts park rangers to unusual activity. In the first two years of using the system, poaching decreased in the reserve by 96%. Not a single rhino has been lost to poaching since 2017 within the reserve. The technology has since been expanded to four more wildlife parks.

Wageningen University and IBM protect rhinos by fitting collars onto prey animals like zebra, wildebeest, eland and impala. Poachers are likely to encounter these animals before rhinoceroses and often don’t target them. Research by the university shows that these animals react differently to the presence of people versus predators such as lions or leopards. So if poachers are in the vicinity, the activity recorded by the collar will act as an early alert system.

Sea Shepherd Conservation Society uses drones to detect illegal fishing – protecting salmon, whales, sea turtles and vaquita. Once drones spot illegal fishing, an alert is sent to authorities who can pursue the fishing vessels or at least confiscate left behind fishing equipment, and free trapped marine life.

Tracking Endangered Species with IoT

Smart Parks, another conservation effort, fitted GPS collars on desert lions in Namibia. The biggest threat to the cats isn’t poachers, but farmers. Due to habitat loss, the lions may venture into human-populated areas to find food. Farmers poison or shoot the cats to prevent them from preying on livestock. The GPS collars allow conservation officials to track the lions and alert the public if the animals head their way. Farmers can then secure their livestock without needing to kill the lions.

Train collisions are a common problem for reindeer in Norway. And since reindeer travel in herds, a single collision could injure or kill up to 50 animals. An IoT solution uses GPS collars on the reindeer and data from the Norwegian Railway Directorate to create a real-time geo-fence around each train. Train drivers are warned via a smartphone app if reindeer are detected nearby so they can make the decision to speed up, slow down or come to a stop. If a collision does happen, the app sends an alert to local authorities so immediate action can be taken to aid the injured animals.

In the Philippines, smart phones are used to track endangered dugongs (manatee-like creatures). Fishers are asked to take photos of dugongs and upload them to the cloud. The images include GPS locations and help conservation specialists to estimate dugong populations and movement patterns to aid in protection efforts.

And in Australia, drones are being used to protect dugongs. Drones can be flown for hours and collect thousands of images, providing a larger capacity for recording the creatures than relying on citizen photos alone. Both methods are less expensive and more detailed than traditional surveying of dugongs via airplane.