Rhino-horn camera could save species from extinction

20 Jul 2015

Rather than just film cool footage, a newly-developed rhino-horn camera is aiming to save the species from extinction by capturing data during an attack on the animal by poachers and filming as evidence.

Dubbed Rapid – Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device – the rhino-horn camera is placed into a hollowed-out hole in the rhino’s horn and aside from a camera consists of a heart-rate monitor, GPS tracking and a microphone.

Once the Rapid picks up a disturbance with the rhino, an anti-poaching team can dispatch a helicopter to try and track down those attempting to kill the rhino and subsequently bring it as evidence in court.

According to The Independent, Rapid was developed by Chester University’s Dr Paul O’Donoghue, who has been working with black rhinos for more than 15 years and who has seen a startling 9,000-fold rise in poaching attempts in South Africa since 2007.

Based off the most recent figures, nearly 1,000 rhinos in South Africa are killed each year due to an insatiable demand from Asia where rhino horn is used in medicine frequently.

‘You can’t outrun a helicopter’

“We had to find a way to protect these animals effectively in the field – the killing has to be stopped,” Dr O’Donoghue said in an interview. “With this device, the heart-rate monitor triggers the alarm the instant a poaching event occurs, pinpointing the location within a few metres so that rangers can be on the scene via helicopter or truck within minutes, leaving poachers no time to harvest the valuable parts of an animal or make good an escape.

“You can’t outrun a helicopter. Rapid renders poaching a pointless exercise.”

The conservation group the Humane Society International UK have backed the project with its executive director Claire Bass describing the Rapid as a “game changer”.

It is now hoped that this technology could be expanded upon to include other endangered species such as tigers and elephants, which are also finding themselves the targets of poachers.

White rhino image via Shutterstock

Updated 21/07/2015 09:51

This article has been amended to remove the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) from being connected with this project in anyway. 

Colm Gorey was a senior journalist with Silicon Republic