Due to the exponential surge in the demand for ivory and other animal products over the last 3 years, the threat to wildlife is greater than it has ever been. Official figures estimate that 25, 000 elephants get killed in Africa every year, some say in actuality this is more like 40, 000.
Measures to counteract poaching must be proactive and robust enough to pose a serious deterrent to poachers who are increasingly heavily armed and well equipped. Surveillance, monitoring, information gathering and storing systems must be extensive, efficient and reliable.
In light of this, In 2011 The Government of the Republic of Kenya received funding from the French government in the amount of 7 million Euros (About Ksh.770 Million), towards the cost of the upgrade of the analogue radio network to a digital radio network.
The new Radio Network covers Tsavo, Southern and Central Rift and will support voice communication, encrypt speech, send SMSs, do selective calling, private calling, group calling, call alert among others in a move to help the govt arm protect wildlife from poaching.
The three conservation areas set to be covered by the new system will be linked together by use of Microwave links hence eliminating the use of the HF radio in a bid to combat poaching, protecting tourists and generally tremendously improve radio communication within the Service.
The system was installed by Ellipse Projects , a French firm and replaces KWS’s analogue, two – way Radio Network, which operates on Very High Frequency (VHF) band and used around and within the National Park gates, Patrol teams, between vehicles and other KWS stations.
The old system is bulky, consumes a lot of power, suffers from poor speech quality, has no encryption, the equipment is old and being analogue, the system is limited to transmitting sound/voice only.
According to Mr. OlivierPicard, President of Ellipse Projects,”The Digital Radio Network will hopefully strengthen the fight against poaching and other illegal wildlife activities. The network is superior, fulfills the most advanced Professional Mobile Radio requirements, and ensures secure communication between Fixed, Mobile and Portable radios. In addition, it provides a dedicated set of Microwave/UHF links to allow communication between different parks and the Kenya Wildlife Services Headquarters located in Nairobi.“
KWS aims to set up the digital system to within all 8 conservation areas to end wildlife crime targeting species such as elephant and rhino to near extinction.