In light of the ever-increasing demands facing wildlife management and protection, it has become essential to look for innovative ways in which to incorporate technology. This is especially true given the exponential development of such solutions in recent years – meaning that technology is now both more powerful and, critically, more survivable than ever before. And that is a key consideration when operating in the bushveld. As one is faced with very real questions about how to provide power, facilitate communication links and ensure robustness in very remote environments populated by primates, elephants and other highly curious animals. And that says nothing of the extreme conditions themselves.
The aim of deploying technology is ultimately to aid conservationists, scientists, and other stakeholders to better understand the wildlife, their habitats and the potential threats they may face.
Frontier, in collaboration with Buhund Solutions and Tactical Advantage, is implementing SMART across the Umbabat Private Nature Reserve. SMART is a spatial monitoring reporting tool that supports the integrated and holistic management of protected areas, by capturing various data points in the field and allowing users to analyse that data to produce meaningful insights. One can easily create a georeferenced database of observations from the field as well as capture photos with location coordinates, timestamps and other metadata. Making the documentation of wildlife patterns, rainfall, soil erosion, poaching incidents and other critical information simple and accurate.
This system is being further enhanced through the deployment of various acoustic, video and environmental sensors that are powered by artificial intelligence (AI). Providing a real-time detect, identify and recognise capability that also prioritises critical events. Through the power of AI, valuable human resources can be kept in reserve and deployed as and when necessary. Moreover, the more data the system collects, the more intelligent, powerful and accurate it becomes – constantly learning about its operating environment. Buhund’s system, therefore, will not only be able to advise on human activity in key areas of concern but also report on wildlife activity, density and other important metrics. And where ID kits of individual animals exist, such as for leopards and rhinos, the AI will be able to confirm sightings on a case-by-case basis.
Underpinning the real value of SMART and the AI-powered sensors is a self-healing and self-configuring mesh network. For all intents and purposes, an umbrella of coverage, relaying through the various sensors and devices in the field, will be created over the entire UPNR. Importantly, there is no single point of failure in this network. Should one node be knocked out, the devices will reroute and continue to provide constant communication. When the damaged node is replaced, the network automatically and intelligently reincorporates that device into its pathway.
Through this process, Frontier is ultimately developing the UPNR into a so-called intelligent reserve, empowering the Management Authority and Warden to better know and understand their environment. Allowing them to work far more effectively and efficiently, cutting to the core of the ecological, law enforcement and intelligence factors influencing the reserve. Ensuring that the land, the inhabitant wildlife and ultimately the value of the UPNR is maximised for the benefit of all.