How Wearable Technology Is Helping Save Rhinos from Poachers   7 comments


How Wearable Technology Is Helping Save Rhinos from Poachers

Conservationists in South Africa are using computerized bracelets powered by Intel Galileo technology to help regenerate the critically endangered rhino population.

Thin and light he is not. An adult male black rhinoceros can tip the scale — if you can coax him onto one — some measuring nearly 1.5 tons, or 1,350 kilograms.

Not only that, black rhino are the fastest kind of rhino, reaching  a top speed of 55 km per hour, according to the World Wildlife Fund (WWF).

The WWF documents how “the Daily Mirror, in 1961, said that rhinos were doomed to disappear from the face of the earth due to man’s folly, greed, neglect.” Ever since, poachers have continued to push rhinos into the brink of extinction.

Today, people in southern Africa are trying to help save these critically endangered animals, including white rhinos, using Intel’s super-tiny Intel Quark system on a chip (SOC).


In 1981, only 10,000-15,000 black rhino remained, according to the WWF, which states that since 1980, the species has probably disappeared from Angola, Botswana, Chad, Central African Republic, Ethiopia, Malawi, Mozambique, Somalia, Sudan and Zambia.

When poachers kill rhinos, they typically hack off the rhinos’ prized horns, which often get ground into powder and sold for medicinal or aphrodisiac value. A single rhino horn can reportedly fetch as much as $3 million. The carcass is most often left to rot.

The WWF reports that after dipping to only 2,475 black rhinos recorded in 1993, conservation and anti-poaching efforts have helped the population grow to nearly 5,000.

In a unique pilot project now underway in South Africa, Intel is contributing a number of credit card-sized Intel Galileo motherboards — complete with processor, 3G communications and data storage — which are affixed to the big beasts.

The project is the outgrowth of a partnership between Intel South Africa and Dimension Data, a cloud services and data center company.

Organizing the work in the field is the Madikwe Conservation Project and i-Detect, a global software company that helps companies manage risk.

Attempting to affix technology to a rhino is risky. The rhino is not an easy customer. It hangs around in the baking hot African sun. It lounges in mud. It rolls in dirt. It stomps its massive 3-toed feet on stuff it doesn’t fancy. With a charge of 55 km per hour, it strikes a mighty blow.

The low-power Intel Galileo board is encased in an utterly rhino-proof, Kevlar-based ankle collar, which also features a durable solar panel to recharge the board’s battery.

What is the best way to attach a “wearable” to a rhino? Very carefully. And not until the huge animal is sedated.


Cellular provider Vodafone is contributing wireless connectivity. Each collared rhino’s geolocation and movement data is encrypted to ensure poachers cannot get to it, then sent to the cloud.

When the wild animals are sedated for their collar fitting, teams embed a tiny RFID chip in each animal’s horn. If the Galileo board detects a break in proximity between ankle and horn, anti-poaching teams can be alerted with helicopters, drones and ground-based vehicles to apprehend the poachers.

While the current pilot is focused on five animals, the technology is working and the cost is proving to be modest and appealing enough to expand to more rhinos.

The project’s next phase will monitor each rhino’s vital stats, such as heart rate. In this way, anti-poaching teams will be able to detect a stressed rhino and swoop in on criminal poachers before they do the deed.

“This incredible creature is in real threat of extinction if we cannot help stop the poaching.” said Gordon Graylish, Intel’s EMEA-based sales and marketing VP who recently checked out the rhino-saving project.

“The ease with which our local team could take our technology and apply it to a real world issue in a novel way was amazing. It also points to the way to even more work like this for us in the future,” he said.

“At Intel, we constantly strive to enable new possibilities, not just for the human race, but for all species of flora and fauna,” said Intel South Africa Country Manager Videsha Proothveerajh. “This project helps us holistically care for our planet.”

By Walden Kirsch, iQ Contributor & Intel Communications

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How Technology Is Decoding the Secret Language of Nature

Real-Time Sensor Networks Give a Voice to the Planet

Galileo: The New Tool That’s Changing the Maker Movement


7 responses to “How Wearable Technology Is Helping Save Rhinos from Poachers

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  1. It’s amazing. For every terrible story you hear, you learn something else that gives you hope The world seems to be divided between animal/wildlife lovers advocates and idiots. thanks for sharing this story. I love rhinos:)

    Liked by 2 people

    • I do too! Some interesting info from Wikipedia:
      (You may have read it already?)

      Predators, poaching and hunting

      Memorial to rhinos killed by poachers near St Lucia Estuary, South Africa

      Adult rhinoceros have no real predators in the wild, other than humans. Young rhinos can however fall prey to big cats, crocodiles, wild dogs, and hyenas.

      Although rhinos are large and have a reputation for being tough, they are very easily poached; they visit water holes daily and can be easily killed while they drink. As of December 2009, poaching increased globally while efforts to protect the rhino are considered increasingly ineffective. The worst estimate, that only 3% of poachers are successfully countered, is reported of Zimbabwe, while Nepal has largely avoided the crisis.[32] Poachers have become more sophisticated. About 69% of Rhino in the world are inhabituated in Nepal.[citation needed] South African officials have called for urgent action against poaching after poachers killed the last female rhino in the Krugersdorp Game Reserve near Johannesburg.[33] Statistics from South African National Parks show that 333 rhinoceros were killed in South Africa in 2010,[34] increasing to 668 by 2012,[35] and over 1,004 in 2013.[36][37][38] In some cases rhinos are drugged and their horns removed, while in other instances more than the horn is taken.[39]

      The Namibian government and Save the Rhino International have been positive about the benefits that rhino trophy hunting may hold for conservation. Hunting licenses for five Namibian Black rhinos are auctioned annually. Additionally, support for a legal trade of rhino horn to combat poaching has been growing.[40] Some conservationists and members of the public however oppose or question this practice.[41]

      Horn trade and use:

      Nepalese monk with rhinoceros horn at Samye in Tibet, 1938
      Rhinoceros horns, unlike those of other horned mammals (which have a bony core), only consist of keratin. Rhinoceros horns are used in traditional Asian medicine, and for dagger handles in Yemen and Oman. Esmond Bradley Martin has reported on the trade for dagger handles in Yemen.[42] The market for rhino horn is however largely driven by practitioners of traditional Chinese medicine who consider the horn an effective and even life-saving medicine.

      It is a pervasive misconception that rhinoceros horn in powdered form is used as an aphrodisiac in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) as Cornu Rhinoceri Asiatici (犀角, xījiǎo, “rhinoceros horn”). It is in fact prescribed for fevers and convulsions,[43] a treatment not supported by evidence-based medicine. Discussions with TCM practitioners to reduce its use have met with mixed results because some TCM doctors consider rhino horn a life-saving medicine of better quality than its substitutes.[44] China has signed the CITES treaty and removed rhinoceros horn from the Chinese medicine pharmacopeia, administered by the Ministry of Health, in 1993. In 2011, in the United Kingdom, the Register of Chinese Herbal Medicine issued a formal statement condemning the use of rhinoceros horn.[45] A growing number of TCM educators have also spoken out against the practice.[46] Rhino-horn shavings boiled in water are said to cool and cure headaches in traditional Chinese medicine; however, the brew has instead been compared to consuming fingernail clippings in water.[47]

      To prevent poaching, in certain areas, rhinos have been tranquilized and their horns removed. Armed park rangers, particularly in South Africa, are also working on the front lines to combat poaching, sometimes killing poachers who are caught in the act. A recent spike in rhino killings has made conservationists concerned about the future of the species.[48] An average sized horn can bring in as much as a quarter of a million dollars in Vietnam and many rhino range states have stockpiles of rhino horn.[49][50]

      In 2011 the Rhino Rescue Project, organized by Ed and Lorinda Hern of the Rhino & Lion Nature Reserve in Krugersdorp South Africa,[51] began a horn-trade control method consisting of infusing the horns (while on the animal) with a mixture of a pink dye and an acaricide (to kill ticks) which is safe for rhinos but toxic to humans.[52] After sedating the animal, holes are drilled into the horns, fittings added, and the cavity connected with rubber hoses to a 2-foot-by-4-inch diameter metal container of the liquid mixture which is then pressurized.[51] The infusion takes less than 20 minutes of the 45 minutes of anesthesia; because of the effect of the mass of the animals on their internal organs, they are rolled every 7 minutes while sedated. The procedure also includes inserting three RFID identification chips and taking DNA samples.[52]

      Because of the fibrous nature of rhino horn, the pressurized dye infuses the interior of the horn but does not color the surface or affect rhino behavior. The acaricide is expected to cause nausea, stomach-ache and diarrhea, or convulsions for anyone consuming the horn in Traditional Chinese Medicine, depending on the quantity, but would not be fatal; the primary deterrent being the knowledge that the treatment has been applied, communicated by signs posted at the refuges. The original idea grew out of research looking into using the horn as a reservoir for one-time tick treatments, and the acaricide is selected to be safe for the rhino, oxpeckers, vultures, and other animals in the preserve’s ecosystem.[52] It was reported that only one out of 150 rhinos treated did not survive the anesthesia.[51]

      It was claimed that the dye can not be successfully removed from horns, and would remain visible on x-ray scanners even when the horn is ground to a fine powder.[52][53]

      Still, poaching is hitting record levels due to demands from China and Vietnam.[54] In March 2013, some researchers suggested that the only way to reduce poaching would be to establish a regulated trade based on humane and renewable harvesting from live rhinos.[55] The WWF however opposes legalization of the horn trade, as it may increase demand,[56] while IFAW released a report by EcoLarge, suggesting that more thorough knowledge of economic factors is required in order to justify the pro-trade option.[57] The South African government has supported the establishment of a legal trade of rhino horn stating that at the 17th Meeting of Conference of the Parties to CITES (CoP17) in 2016 they will apply for a legal trade in Rhino Horn in an attempt to reduce poaching and prevent the extinction of this species.[40]


  2. Reblogga detta på GarryRogers Nature Conservation.


  3. Reblogga detta på Smorgasbord – Variety is the spice of life och kommenterade:
    A terrific project and one that I hope will be rolled out across the Rhino population when possible. I hope they also round up the end users who after all are the ones paying the big bucks for a ‘mythical’ remedy.


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