A new grant from Google’s Global Impact Awards will help WWF deploy innovative technologies — such as “conservation drones” — in the battle to protect rhinos and other endangered species in Africa and Asia. The $5 million will enable WWF to develop an integrated state-of-the-art system to detect and curb wildlife trafficking.
Remote aerial survey systems, wildlife tagging technology and ranger patrolling guided by analytical software like the Spatial Monitoring and Reporting Tool (SMART) will be integrated to increase the detection and deterrence of poaching in vulnerable sites in Asia and Africa.
Crawford Allen of TRAFFIC North America (TRAFFIC is the wildlife trade monitoring program of WWF) told NBC News that the “overarching system for integrating all the data created by satellites, aerial vehicles, patrols on the ground and government reports” will be especially welcome. He pointed out that “authorities aren’t always willing to put this kind of infrastructure in place on their own, whether because of cost or corruption” noting that wildlife trafficking is “very lucrative and officials in developing countries can be convinced to turn a blind eye for a price”.
WWF President and CEO Carter Roberts said that wildlife crime had reached “unprecedented” levels. “The killings are way up. We need solutions that are as sophisticated as the threats we face. This pushes the envelope in the fight against wildlife crime.”
Meanwhile, rhino horn trafficking continues:
- As of writing, South Africa’s Department of Environmental Affairs states that 588 rhinos have been killed this year; several sources outside the media report that the figure has passed 600.
- Rhino horn trafficker Chumlong Lemtongthai, a Thai national, was sentenced last month in South Africa to 40 years in prison. However, his South African accomplice, safari operator Marnus Steyl, is currently out on bail (again) after a brief appearance in court. Steyl is due in court again in March 2013.
- In Kenya, four rhinos were gunned down during the past week at Lewa Wildlife Conservancy.
- Forest guards in India’s Kaziranga National Park exchanged gunfire with suspected members of the militant group Karbi Peoples’ Liberation Tigers (KPLT) who shot a rhino in the Park’s Burapahar range. The guards stopped the gang from obtaining the rhino’s horn; unfortunately, the rhino died of gunshot wounds.
- Also in India, a rhino was killed in Orang National Park, although forest guards prevented the killers from removing the rhino’s horn.
Sentencing for rhino crimes in Nepal and UK
Authorities in Nepal nabbed a rhino killer identified as Padam Bahadur Chepang, who had been eluding arrest for five years. Chepang and an accomplice, Biul Bote, were sentenced to fifteen years in prison, according to Nepali news portal MyRepublica.com.