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No more hiding in the dark for poachers entering the Kruger National Park

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Innovative wide area surveillance technology is being used in Kruger National Park to thwart the activities of poachers entering South Africa’s primary rhino stronghold.

 

The ‘Meerkat system’ safely directs rangers when having to engage in potentially dangerous encounters with armed poachers. Guided by this “angel on their shoulder”, the rangers manage to catch the poachers off-guard, arrest them and confiscate valuable firearms and tools.

The department of environmental affairs reported 1038 poaching activities at Kruger National Park in 2016. The concern with the numbers of poaching incidents has resulted in South African National Parks (SANParks), South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research and Peace Parks Foundation joining forces to launch a new technology to protect the rhinos of the country.

The national park hopes to get continuous surveillance day and night by using the Meerkat system. What this surveillance assists most with is catching poachers while it’s dark, where the rangers have less visibility, without putting rangers in danger.

According to SANParks, “Meerkat is utilised this time to safely direct the response team as they inch closer and closer to a potentially dangerous encounter with the armed poachers.”

This surveillance system was officially put into operations at the end of January after the completion of the first production model. SANParks reported that on February 14 this year the Postcode Meerkat detected three separate groups – a total of 14 poachers – moving into the rhino heartland from different directions.

“With the use of new wide area surveillance technology and specialised long range optics installed in the so-called Meerkat system, poachers no longer have the luxury of relying on invisibility as they illegally enter South Africa’s primary rhino stronghold” said SANParks.

This system is also a mobile system that can be quickly deployed to areas where needed, to prevent poaching crisis zones from developing.

SANParks said “This is the first time that this kind of technology is being applied in a counter poaching role in a bushveld environment … Smart thinking in its development allows it to differentiate between humans and animals, while its application will guarantee early warning and rapid response capabilities.”

Although in operation the Meerkat system is still in a development phase but work is being done to optimize and expand its functionality and refine how the system is integrated into Kruger National Park’s reaction force and counter-poaching strategies. The SANParks is confident that this system is making a difference.

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Sources: Peace Parks

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