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Technology v poachers in SA’s national parks

South African National Parks (SANParks) has launched aerial thermal imaging technologies in a bid to combat poaching in the Kruger National Park. HumanIPO caught up with Isaac Phaahla, Media Specialist at SANParks, to find out about the potential benefits of technology to conservation efforts.

Given the difficult terrain prevalent in areas of South Africa’s national parks, foot-borne rangers have experienced increasing difficulties in keeping up with a rising number of poachers – with rhino killings by poachers forecast to reach 650 for the year.

Phaahla explains that technology is proving useful in advancing rangers’ capabilities.

“The use of technology gives you the element of surprise and accuracy,” he says. “It’s all about intelligence gathering and execution of missions. Once you’ve had information from the technology that you are using, you are able to make quick and informed decisions.”

He further notes that a particularly noteworthy benefit that technology offers to rangers is the opportunity to cut back reaction times.

“It will give you an element of surprise and a huge advantage over potential poachers, by the time you reach them they might not even be aware that you’ve been observing them.”

Phaahla says the combatting of poaching is not the only area where technology can assist, with it also being useful in conservation terms, for monitoring environmental changes and animal behaviour.

With respect to animal tracking, for example, he explains the value of technological innovations: “We need to know their range in areas they [the animals] are dominant in. Their feeding habits inform our scientists to understand them better and inform our teams on how to keep the integrity of the park safe for the animals.”

Furthermore, technology will also help scientists identify and monitor important environmental changes.

“Technology is also used to measure the impact of animals on the environment, observations are made of bushy areas turning into savannahs and technology helps in identifying the major causes of such incidents. It could be overgrazing or migration patterns but that can only be confirmed through the use of technology.”

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