Kenya reaping the rewards of its aggressive anti-poaching campaign, bolstered by Ellipse Projects radios and CyberTracker app
Amid all the bad news in 2020, there was at least one silver lining. Kenya recently reported that no rhinos were poached in 2020, which has not happened in the country for more than two decades. In addition, Kenya also has seen record number of elephants poached – only 11 elephants were killed in 2020, the lowest total in Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) history and a sharp drop from 350 just five years ago.
As the director of KWS pointed out, the ability of authorities to keep poaching low even amid declining attendance during the Covid-19 pandemic is “not just luck, it is ‘it’s thanks to a lot of hard work and dedication ”. Indeed, the Kenyan authorities have taken a number of essential steps to implement better anti-poaching policies in recent years and have deployed a number of innovative tools to eradicate this heinous practice – high-tech secure radios from French society Ellipse projects, to the mobile application CyberTracker which simplified patrolling, engaging the community and ensuring that poachers face serious consequences.
A major milestone was taken in 2013, when the Kenya Wildlife Service launched an international tender, won by French engineering company Ellipse Projects, to modernize the aging KWS radio system. Ellipse Project’s investment in state-of-the-art secure radios, funded by a concessional loan from the French government, was aimed at outwitting increasingly tech-savvy poachers. power listen to the analog devices that the KWS had been using for years.
The environmentally friendly system set up by Ellipse Projects operates using solar-powered radio infrastructures that communicate with 800 portable and mobile terminals. The French Minister of Commerce and Tourism at the time, Matthias Fekl, estimated that the new radio system would help “not only to protect biodiversity, but also to improve the safety of caretakers and tourists”, a prediction that is materialized. Ellipse Projects officially completed work on the infrastructure in 2017, just as poaching incidents among all of Kenya’s prized animals, including elephants, giraffes, zebras, fawns, antelopes and buffaloes took hold. started to happen. lead.
Another technological tool has also facilitated the monitoring work of the Kenyan anti-poaching forces: a mobile app and a free GPS field data collection system called CyberTracker. The spatial surveillance and reporting tool greatly facilitated the patrols, especially since the Kenyan rangers charge with the monitoring and safeguarding of protected lands often have to cover large tracts of land, sometimes on foot and often at night. The sixteen community rangers who protect the 46,000 acres of LUMO community wildlife conservation in southwest Kenya, for example, frequently travel up to 40 km per day in their labor-intensive patrols. .
CyberTracker’s user-friendly platform has made their job much easier by mapping areas that have already been patrolled recently in real time. The rangers can also add geo-referenced data for field observations, create a library of flora and fauna observations, and generate valuable statistics on the different concentrations of the reserve as well as allow the monitoring of the movements of animals, which plays an important role. by protecting them from poachers.
While these technological solutions have proven to be extremely valuable tools for Kenyan rangers, more analog developments have also contributed to the radical change in Kenya’s fight against poaching. On the one hand, community engagement has proven to be essential in helping people understand the incredible value of Kenya’s wildlife. Kenyan conservationists have increasingly relied on educational programs pointing out that while poaching can offer money quickly, the practice not only threatens critical populations of wildlife, but impacts the livelihoods of the millions of Kenyans who depend on the tourism industry. By working with communities in close contact with wildlife, rangers are able to stem potential poachers in the bud and get people to report poaching cases.
The final key to cracking down on the mutilation and killing of Kenya’s wildlife is to ensure that poachers receive appropriate legal sanctions. Successful lawsuits in Kenya have skyrocketed since sanctions became more punitive and sanctions more likely. These increased sentences are vital, because as Senior Legal Advisor Katto Wambua Highlighted, the illegal wildlife trade is incredibly profitable: “in Kenya in 2010, when we had high poaching rates, paying 40,000 Kenyan shillings (£ 282) was nothing to them (criminals) and that was the highest penalty they could get. However, today’s poachers are not that easily off the hook: in 2016, up to 90% of poaching prosecutions resulted in convictions and jail time, acting as a powerful deterrent for would-be people. animal thieves.
Between Ellipse Projects’ secure radio system against spy poachers, the CyberTracker app to facilitate ranger patrols and increased community engagement and penalties for poachers, Kenya seems to have come up with a winning formula. to fight against poaching. At the height of the poaching pandemic in 2013, the illegal trade in rhino horns, which can more than the price of gold– caused the death of 59 rhinos, a staggering number given that there are just over 1,000 rhinos left in the country.
The progress made since then is remarkable, and the fact that Kenya has not lost a single rhino to poaching in 2020 is particularly remarkable given fears that the decimation of the tourism industry amid the coronavirus pandemic. increase the threat of poaching as people’s livelihoods have been suppressed and far fewer observers have sounded the alarm. Indeed, Kenya’s anti-poaching strategy has proven so successful in recent years that Brigadier John Waweru, Managing Director of KWS, believe “It is not a pipe dream to bring the level of poaching in Kenya to zero.