Why are we doing this project?
50 years ago, several hundreds of thousands of rhinos roamed the African savannahs. Today, due to poaching the remaining 20.000 are living in national parks and sanctuaries, protected by rangers. In many parks, there are as many rangers as rhinos.
Project Ngulia aims at developing innovative cost-efficient technical solutions to assist the park rangers to monitor rhinos and combat poaching. Today, the rangers use smartphones with an app we developed together with them to report whatever they see during their patrols, and the officers can in real time see their reports and get regular reports from the system.
Wildlife crimes – including trafficking in ivory and rhino horns – have skyrocketed, threatening the economic viability of many African countries.
In the last seven years, the elephant population was reduced by 30 percent and more than 3,500 rhinos have been slaughtered by poachers since 2012. There are direct and indirect links between poaching, wildlife crime and transnational organized criminals, insurgencies and even terrorist organizations. In Kenya, the black rhino population is facing extinction. In 1970s there were 20,000 black rhinos. Today there are only about 700.
The current situation has significant implications for Kenya’s development as about 10 percent of Kenya’s GDP is associated with the tourism industry that relies on popular wildlife attractions as elephants and rhinos. At the same time, the U.N. Secretary General, national governments and independent NGOs have drawn direct links between wildlife crimes and transnational criminal networks, insurgencies and terrorist organizations. Technology and innovation at wildlife sanctuaries and national parks is part of a holistic solution.
In our bottom-up approach, we are focusing on the important work of the park rangers. We want to make their work more efficient and safer by digitalization, and funnier through gamification of key performance indexes. In the future, we want to provide the rangers with super-eyes and super-ears using modern sensor technology featuring smart algorithms from our research.