South Africa is home to more than 70 percent of the world’s remaining rhino population. However, conservationists are battling to protect the dwindling number of these iconic animals that are being killed for their highly-prized horns as over the past decade, more than 7,000 rhinos were killed across the African continent and in 2016, 1,054 were reported killed in South Africa alone.

Welgevonden Game Reserve in South Africa, is working with IBM, MTN, Wageningen University (WU) in the Netherlands and Prodapt, to help predict threats and combat poaching. Using IBM Internet of Things (IoT) technology as part of the MTN Connected Wildlife Solution, the solution will help predict threats and combat the poaching of endangered rhinos at the reserve then expand it to other reserves in future.

According to Bradley Schroder, Chief Executive Officer of Welgevonden Game Reserve,“This project will be a profound breakthrough in the creation of connected wildlife solutions, a wildlife management concept that aims to harness IoT technology to better manage and protect wildlife and other assets.”

This new predictive capability stems from research performed by Wageningen University conducted on Welgevonden Game Reserve, which shows that prey-animals in the wild react in different ways, depending on the type of threat they encounter and the perceived danger from predators such as lion and leopard or the presence of people in the vicinity.

Using MTN’s Connected Wildlife Solution which leverages IBM’s IoT technology and the university’s predictive analytics, the solution gives game reserves a powerful new tool in the fight to save endangered species. Protecting the rhinos begins with fitting collars containing custom sensors onto prey-animals including zebra, wildebeest, eland and impala, which will transmit data about their behavior to the IoT platform.

The sensors collect animal location information, movement, direction and average speed of travel, along with other data and relay it over an MTN network then researchers create approximately 20 rule-based patterns based on the animals’ response to threats. As a result, animals such as zebra will act as sentinels with their response patterns becoming an early warning system to protect the rhinos.

The predictive nature of this solution takes away the reliance on game reserve teams to be in the right place at the right time, or to respond to events, such as the distant sound of gunfire; and the teams can take proactive action that keeps rhinos safe.

“Over the years, we have seen that animal tracking technology has been used reactively in game reserves. Welgevonden needed a more proactive solution to take the fight to protect the rhinos further. With the solution designed for Welgevonden, MTN, along with our partners, can better predict and anticipate potential poaching activity. This allows the ranger to take pre-emptive action before any threat happens,” says Mariana Kruger, General Manager at MTN Business.

 

MTN has over 3 million active M2M connections and together these connected devices, sensors and systems provide insight whilst solving real business challenges around the continent.  IBM has more than 6,000 client engagements in 170 countries, a growing ecosystem of over 1,400 partners and more 750 IoT patents.

“The Internet of Things is changing the way we live and work, and we are finding new applications for IBM’s IoT technologies in businesses across the spectrum. Now we’re helping curb rhino poaching and preserve endangered species on the African continent.” concluded Hamilton Ratshefola, Country General Manager for IBM South Africa.

In the future, the aim is for the technology to be made available for deployment at game reserves across Africa and abroad.