By Joel Flynn
The Zoological Society London (ZSL), whose mission is to promote & achieve the world-wide conservation of animals & their habitats, says it may have taken a step closer to fulfilling that with the development of a new camera, which it calls Instant Detect.
Developed in partnership with other companies like Seven Technologies Group, which specializes in security technology & helped train rangers on conservation sites on how best to use Instant Detect devices, ZSL hopes it could assist the fight against poaching, as well as the monitoring of endangered & other species.
p> In the last 40 years 95 percent of rhinoceroses have been poached & more than 100,000 African elephants from 2011-2014 have been illegally killed, according to the charity group.
Instant Detect is a camera trap system that uses satellite technology to send images from anywhere in the world, according to ZSL Conservation Technology Unit Project Manager, Louise Hartley.
"It's a camera that we would deploy in the wild, it has to be quite sturdy & it often uses motion triggers, so it will have a passive infrared sensor to detect heat changes, so as an animal or a person walks past an image will be captured, & it's just a tremendous way to obtain an insight into the wild that you wouldn't be able to do if you were a person," she said.
The satellite node uses a Raspberry Pi computer to send the images via the Iridium satellite network, which is a satellite constellation providing voice & data coverage to satellite phones, pagers & other integrated transceivers.
A filter moves across the lens detecting the alter from day to night & adjusting the camera accordingly, so it can see in the dark using night vision.
According to Hartley, it has two main uses – monitoring & catching poachers.
"We have a deployment in Antarctica to monitor penguins, so we're getting images back daily to look at the penguin behavior & moreover look at environmental alter in that area," she said.
"We're moreover using it for anti-poaching purposes to improve security within protected areas. So an alert, an image, would be sent to an operations room & then rangers can then react accordingly to that alert," she added.
If an intruder enters a protected area the camera picks that up & sends an alert. It moreover has magnetic sensors that can pick up cars, guns & even knives, moreover triggering the alert to local rangers.
The Instant Detect box has a camera lens in the middle, surrounded by an LED array used for night-time imagery using infrared flash – "so when it goes off you won't be able to see it, it's not visible to the human eye," said Hartley.
"We have here the passive infrared sensor, so that's the motion detector, so it detects heat change, so as a person or a species is walking in it will trigger an image to be taken," she added, "you can moreover set it to timelapse so you can set an image to be taken every four hours or every five hours for example."
The crucial part, though, is how it talks to ZSL's monitors & to local rangers.
"You have the antenna attached to the top here, & then you would have a battery pack attached to the bottom here. When an image is taken there's a separate unit called the satellite node, & the images are sent via radio frequency to the satellite node & then the satellite node uses the Iridium Satellite Network to send that image to where you need it," Hartley said.
Other anti-poaching technologies have come to the fore recently, including the Real-Time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device (RAPID) developed by conservation organization Protect with support from the Humane Society International.
DNA analysis, acoustic traps, thermal imaging & improving analytics & mapping are all contributing to the fight against poaching as well.
ZSL hopes that Instant Detect could be a crucial addition to that growing arsenal, in what remains a battle with high costs.
The Kruger Park, South Africa's main tourist draw, is one place on the front-line of the battle against a surge in rhino poaching for the animal's horn to meet demand in countries such as Vietnam, where it is a coveted ingredient in traditional medicine.
The poaching of rhinos there rose in 2015, although it was on the decline elsewhere in the country.
ZSL has limited ambitions for the time being on the device's usage, although they do eventually want to scale up & roll it out even further.
"For the business aspect of Instant Detect, we're really just using it for conservation purposes, so we'll roll it out to two different sites for anti-poaching or for remote monitoring. A lot of that will be through grant funded, yet moreover we may sell additional systems to four conservation uses," Hartley said.
"We want to bring in new transmission methods," she added.
"So as new connectivity is improving around the world, in addition to satellite, we'd moreover like to have GSM capabilities in there, so when it is available we can send it by mobile networks, because it is a lot cheaper than satellite."
"We moreover want to look at how we can reduce the cost so it is more scalable & do things like improve image quality, so you obtain a really, really tremendous image which would support evidence for example in prosecutions," she added.
ZSL is moreover focusing on countries where they have resources & man power to follow up on conservation work.
Technology & Electronics