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14 October, 2018 - 16:38 By Tony Quested

Cambridge surveillance technology sets trap to catch wildlife poachers

Cambridge Design Partnership has unveiled surveillance technology to help detect and snare illegal poachers of endangered animal species.

CDP’s ‘Instant Detect 2.0’ system is a satellite connected camera and sensor system that can be deployed in the most remote and inaccessible locations to provide sensor alerts and images in near real-time. 

It will bolster the work of park rangers protecting endangered animals such as gorillas, elephants, tigers and rhinos against the illegal wildlife trade, as well as enhancing the efforts of conservationists worldwide monitoring various species.

Prototypes of the device were showcased by CDP design engineer Tom Brittain at the Illegal Wildlife Trade Conference: London 2018, a major international event held by the UK Government at Battersea Evolution. 

Brittain said: “The detectors of Instant Detect 2.0 can pick up any movement but can be set specifically to be triggered by human activity. Instant Detect 2.0 will send alerts straight to wildlife rangers. It can even take high-quality photographs of the poachers which can be used in prosecutions against them.”

According to Save The Rhino, more than 7,000 African rhinos have been lost to poaching in the past 10 years. The United Nations calculates that 100 elephants are slaughtered every day in Africa for the illegal ivory trade. 
The device is being created in partnership with the Zoological Society of London (ZSL), based at London Zoo. “This technology is very much designed by conservationists, for conservationists,” says Brittain.

“We are very excited to be part of a project that will potentially save thousands of rare and endangered animals in the wild.” 

Conservationist Sam Seccombe is the field specialist at ZSL who has been working with CDP on the project. He explains how the technology will combat poaching.

“When a poacher is detected by the system a threat alert is pushed to the wildlife rangers in under five minutes. Knowing where the poacher is allows the rangers to mount an appropriate response and stop the poachers before it is too late.” 

The team will shortly be travelling to Tsavo West national park in Kenya to test and trial the new equipment in the field. 

Brittain says: “What is special about Instant Detect 2.0 in comparison with other motion-triggered cameras is the fact that it sends its data securely via satellite at low cost, which can be picked up worldwide within minutes. 
“Cameras can be placed up to two kilometres from the Instant Detect 2.0 base station and sensors can be as far as 10 kilometres from the base. The data is then transmitted globally via the Iridium satellite network, which offers the most reliable global coverage. 

“An early version has already been used to watch penguins in the Antarctic. It can be used for anything from tracking down rare animals such as snow leopards to gathering information from remote parts of the Amazonian rain forest. 

“Here at CDP we are designing the kit to be small enough to be portable in a rucksack. The batteries will last for months and all the equipment has to be robust enough to withstand jungle humidity, freezing temperatures of Antarctica and extreme desert heat.” 

Importantly, the kit will also send alerts to users if the battery is running low, a device has been tampered with, or if maintenance is needed. This will be a huge help to conservationists, says Sam Seccombe.

“There can be nothing more disheartening for a conservationist than to wait for a number of months to collect their camera trap images to find that, on day two of the deployment, an elephant has smeared dirt on the camera lens and they have collected a thousand images of mud. 

“This solution allows conservationists to plan better, be more efficient and only trek deep into the field to their equipment when absolutely necessary.” 

Britain said: “When a conservation project is looking at spending, say £10,000, on a helicopter ride into a remote area to set up monitoring equipment the kit has absolutely got to work. 

“Instant Detect 2.0 will carry on transmitting data for months and that data can be picked up and analysed almost straight away. Plans already in the pipeline include elephant protection in Kenya, monitoring mountain lions near San Francisco and even tracking glacial retreat. It’s very versatile.” 

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