Proof of the range of topics the CSIR (Council for Scientific and Industrial Research) invests brainpower, time and funds into comes with an anti-poaching guide for organisations needing to establish an anti-poaching capability.
“Guidelines to Inform the Establishment of Anti-Poaching Related Systems and Services”, was funded by USAID, through the World Wildlife Fund South Africa (WWF-SA) and contains contributions from what the national research and development organisation calls “a significant range of organisations involved in nature conservation, security technologies and countering wildlife crime”.
It covers higher-level design concepts, governance and organisation, as well as practical aspects of staffing, facilities and operational teams – human and animals (dogs and horses). Coverage is given to technical systems, including perimeter security, access control, connectivity and mobility; integration of technologies, such as sensors or optronics and situational awareness with response teams as well as sustainment of the anti-poaching capability.
“Rhino poaching received wide media attention and subsequently a flood of offerings from technology vendors who claimed to have ideal solutions,” Charl Petzer, programme manager: environmental asset management at the CSIR, said.
“Initially drones received a lot of hype, but one has to consider endurance, terrain for take-off and landing, cost of ownership and stealth capabilities.
“The key is to properly understand the operational concept on the ground – causes, modus operandi, limitations, environmental conditions, among others and design an integrated capability, not freestanding components.
“Operations should be conducted within the ambit of applicable governance structures – you can’t break the law to enforce the law,” he said.
Different reserves have different challenges and resources.
“We found not all expensive technology is good and not all good technology is expensive. Over a period of time, we could see the effect of correct choices and received positive feedback. At the end of the day, technology makes it possible, but people make it happen; we must understand the societal context of criminality and not ignore the integrity management of guardians.”
Apart from the CSIR the contributors include national conservation agency SANParks, the SA Wildlife College, Ezemvelo KwaZulu-Natal Wildlife, the Greater Kruger Environmental Protection Foundation, the Private Rhino Owners Association, the Peace Parks Foundation and the law enforcement division of the Department of Environment, Forestry and Fisheries (DEFF).
The CSIR has developed a number of technologies that have made their way into counter-poaching efforts, and this includes the Otus surveillance camera, which is used on the Meerkat radar/electro-optical system deployed in the Kruger National Park, and the Cmore command and control system, which is used to track rhino poachers before they kill in the Kruger National Park. The Cmore domain awareness system integrates information from various sensors into one display that allows the commander to form a picture of what is really happening. This includes detection systems, aircraft, dogs etc. Other useful technologies include several unmanned aerial vehicles and a tethered aerostat.