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African wildlife conservation introduces ‘smart park’ system to protect animals from poachers

An African National Park has introduced a high-tech 'smart park' system which has been specifically implemented in an attempt to protect animals from the incessant threat posed by poachers. Rwanda's National Park has this week launched the 'smart park' system which it claims will enable rangers to monitor animals, visitors and equipment in real-time.

Security at wildlife reserves in Africa has been an issue for a number of years now, with park rangers finding it increasingly difficult to combat the threat presented by 'big game' poachers. The Rwandan National Park has disclosed that rhino and elephant populations have been decimated by poachers, but they've expressed confidence that this new innovative technology can buck worrying trend.

The revolutionary 'smart park' system has been developed by Dutch conservation organizations Shadow-View and Internet of Life, and the system is based on a Long Range Wide-Area Network, which is a low-bandwidth, low-power networking technology that can blanket large areas at relatively low costs.

This type of technology which has been developed has already been used to develop Internet of Things networks in Amsterdam and other 'smart cities' across Europe and North America. The Dutch conservation organizations behind the 'smart park' system firmly believe it will keep poachers off the protected lands.

According to engineers behind the technology, the 'smart park' systems signals are sent on a closed network across multiple frequencies, ultimately making the network more difficult to access. Prior to the 'smart parl System', radio frequencies commonly used to track animals were easily intercepted. In addition, the Long Range Wide-Area Network systems are less costly than that of satellite-based tracking, which is an appealing incentive for cash-strapped parks.

The 'smart park' system will also provide rangers with real-time data to help managers and rangers respond to incidents across the 433-square-mile park, where 3G and 4G connections are unreliable. Analysts have suggested that thus far animal tracking technology has been something of a double-edged sword. Parks and scientists have used radio signals, track endangered species, but fresh evidence has emerged that indicates that poachers may be using VHF receivers to intercept such signals.

It was claimed that poachers in India attempted to hack into GPS trackers that had been placed on Bengali Tigers. Founder of Internet of Life, Tim van Dam stated that the 'smart park' system would be much more secure because its signals are sent across frequencies which constantly change and the data is also encrypted.

Shadow-View founder Laurens de Groot said the smart park systems ability to provide real-time information that can make rangers proactive instead of reactive is a key factor in alleviating the threat of poachers. He said: "What we're trying to create is like a Jurassic Park, but to keep the bad guys out and without the dinosaurs, of course. What we'd like to do is make everything measurable inside the park. And when you know that information, you can predict where things might be happening, and you can plan ahead and make the right decision on how to protect certain areas."

The innovative network has been created from gateways within 12 towers that have been erected at high-elevation points around the park. In addition to this, it has been further disclosed that 100 solar-powered sensors have been implemented within the park which sends constant signals to the gateways, which are subsequently relayed to a central control room where officials can track their location in real-time. The 'smart park' system can be scaled up to incorporate 100,000 sensors. The sensors can be used to monitor the location of tourist vehicles and park staff, or to check the status of electric fences and other infrastructure.