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Vital to the protection of wildlife, economic growth, and the development of local communities, much is being done to protect African rhinos from habitat loss, natural disasters, disease, and of course, humans. Black rhinos have doubled in number over the past two decades, and southern white rhinos now thrive in protected sanctuaries. However, despite these efforts, poaching in South Africa has skyrocketed, increasing from 13 reports in 2007 to over 1,200 in 2014.
How can IoT help?
In the past, rhinos have been fitted with microchips that track movements. This all good and well, but it’s not going to help protect against an attack.
Instead, a new piece of IoT tech has been developed that will be able to pre-empt a poacher attack, not by tracking the rhinos, but by tracking zebras instead.
Research from Wageningen University noted zebras tend to move differently depending on the threat they’re facing—if it’s a lion they’ll group up and run together, if it’s a gun toting human they’ll scatter.
Informed by this research, and the fact that zebras have far quicker reaction times than rhinos, IBM is kitting out zebras with LORA enabled collars that monitor GPS coordinates, ambient temperature, acceleration, and speed. Comparing the data collected to the data patterns collected by the university, the collars will issue warnings that a rhino near a group of zebras might be in danger.
With aims to expand the tech with machine learning, this project is a key example of the vast applications of IoT. So while your smart fridge is telling you that you’re out of milk, remember that the same tech might just be saving some rhinos too.
Read more on Quartz.