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Fitting rhinos with high-tech body cams could save them from poachers

EPA/Daniel Irungu
“Arm me with a camera, please.”
By Svati Kirsten Narula
Published Last updated This article is more than 2 years old.

A UK-based coalition called Protect has created a body camera to be worn by rhinos so anti-poaching task forces can better protect them.

The device, called the Protect RAPID (Real-time Anti Poaching Intelligence Device), includes a small camera implanted in the rhino’s horn, plus a heart rate monitor and a GPS satellite collar.

The heart rate monitor “triggers an alarm at any sign of stress or injury,” provoking law enforcement to dispatch a helicopter or truck to the scene, Paul O’Donaghue, one of the inventors, said in a statement.

Protect RAPID

Most of the world’s dwindling rhinoceros population dwells in South Africa, where poachers slaughtered approximately 1,000 of them in 2013 and another 1,215 in 2014. South Africa’s poaching crisis is driven by Asia’s demand for rhino horns, which do not contain ivory (another prized material, and the reason wild elephant populations are being decimated by poachers) but are thought to have rare medicinal properties.

Conservationists have tried growing synthetic rhino horns to discourage poaching, and government officials have even assigned a 24/7 security detail to one rhino in Kenya—the last male of the northern white rhino species. And though wildlife rangers in South Africa’s rhino territory are now equipped with military weapons and training, they can’t be everywhere at once; it’s still all too common for rangers to come across rhino carcasses hours or days after poachers killed them for their horns.

An unnamed ranger quoted by Protect said, “If we had some tool to alert us to a poaching event as it took place, we could be there in minutes. There would be no escaping for the poachers.”

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