Track and Protect Animals From Poachers With This App

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Conservationists are installing advanced cameras in remote parts of Africa so you can keep track of endangered animals in real time via an app and even help protect them against poachers.

As a part of the Instant Wild project by the Zoological Society of London (ZSL) — funded by award donations from Google and the Royal Wedding Charitable Gift Fund of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge — satellite-connected and motion-triggered cameras are now pushing out images of animals in Kenya. Users worldwide can access the photos immediately via the accompanying Instant Wild app [iTunes link] and identify animals by cross-checking with the platform's field guide.

The platform also sends out a warning for illegal poaching activity, especially when tracking certain animals such as rhino. In fact, the ZSL said a rhino is killed every 11 hours in Africa, due largely to the demand for products which can be made from their horns. Because there are only 539 rhinos left in the wild — down from 20,000 in 1969 and about 1,000 have been killed in the last 18 months — conservationists are trying to do everything they can to keep them alive.

"The motion-triggered cameras are installed in areas such as watering holes, and can currently take up to 30 photos a day as well as multiple pictures less than a second apart on each motion trigger," Richard Traherne, head of the wireless division at Cambridge Consultants which created the technology, told Mashable. "The pictures are taken in the cameras and then transmitted over a short range wireless link to a central node."

The captured images, which are sent back over a low orbit satellite communication network, can stay on top of suspicious human activity happening in the region.

 "The cameras have the ability now to instantly transmit images of intruders to park rangers," Traherne said.

"The cameras have the ability now to instantly transmit images of intruders to park rangers," Traherne said. "In the future, ZSL are investigating options to detect vehicles from vibrations and triangulate the sound of gunshots, so that park rangers can pinpoint the location of poachers and intervene immediately. The cameras use infrared flash technology not using white light to not scare the animals or make the poachers aware of their presence."

The system also allows ZSL to configure the cameras from back at its base by adding a reverse channel to the cameras.

"This is an essential requirement when the cameras are located in remote inaccessible areas where a trip back to modify the settings aren't feasible," he said. "So far, the system has already identified the existence of an animal in a region where it was previously thought to be extinct — a mountain mouse deer in Sri Lanka."

The system will be expanding to other regions such as Indonesia and the South Pole in the future.