Poaching remains the number one threat to the growth of rhino populations. Kenya has the third-highest number of black rhinos in Africa and this has made it a target for wildlife crime. Conservation organisations are embracing technology to stay ahead of wildlife criminals who are finding more and more inventive ways of attacking. One of the projects designed to enhance the work done by wildlife rangers is a collaboration by World Wildlife Fund (WWF), FLIR, Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and selected private wildlife sanctuaries, among them Ol Pejeta. The project, named the Wildlife Crime Technology Project, was first tested in 2015 in Lake Nakuru National Park and the Mara Triangle Conservancy. It equipped KWS with the most efficient technology to collect data and respond to poaching threats through cost-effective technologies that reduced poaching.
The two pilots were very successful which led the partners to scale up the technology in a new Kifaru Rising Project (KRP). Additional sites were selected based on their rhino population concentration and frequency of poaching cases and intrusion threats. This project aims to arm rangers with thermal and night vision handheld cameras, drone, vehicle-mounted thermal imagers, and airborne multi-sensory Gryo-stabilised surveillance systems. The FLIR cameras will hopefully give rangers a competitive advantage at night during their patrols and operations.
Since Ol Pejeta already has the required human expertise in place as part of our Conservation Technology Lab, we will lead the post-installation maintenance alongside KWS. We have received a grant from WWF to put in place the basic infrastructure needed before the FLIR cameras can be installed. This includes masts, fiber optics, a fence to protect the masts from elephant damage.