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Rhino horns to be fitted with chips, to ward off poachers

They will replace the older collars that were difficult for rhinos to wear and weighed as much as 15 kilogrammes

In Summary

•The chip can locate the rhinoceros and alert park rangers when rhinos approach an area identified as particularly dangerous due to previous instances of poaching.

•The chip will also track animal health by measuring their body temperature.

A rhino at Ol Pejeta park.
A rhino at Ol Pejeta park.
Image: FILE

Rhinos at a local wildlife ranch will now wear tiny chips in their horns to track their movement in real time. 

The new technology at Ol Pejeta will also track animal health by measuring their body temperature.

The conservancy is targetting its 122 black rhinos, 32 southern white rhinos, and two northern white rhinos.

 

The technology will be coordinated through a new conservation technology laboratory opened last month at the 90,000-acre ranch. 

"We spend about US$10,000 to protect one rhino in one year," said the wildlife ranch's manager Richard Vigne.

He said the new chips will lower the costs by replacing the bulky and expensive traditional collars that used to track animals. 

The older collars were difficult for rhinos to wear and required someone to physically use an antenna and listen for beeps.

A collar can weigh as much as 15 kilogrammes and its battery lasts only about one year. 

The new, one inch-long chip cost about Sh5,000 each and is fitted with a small battery that can last three years.

“The technology is now available to protect Africa’s wildlife and ensure we never see another needless loss to the world like the recent death of our last male northern white rhino, Sudan,” said William Njoroge, head of technology at Ol Pejeta.

 

The management said the Conservation Lab was the world’s first technology hub dedicated to wildlife conservation.

It uses Sigfox, a technology provided by Liquid Telecom.

“Technology has the potential to truly transform wildlife conservation across the world as well as Africa, providing a much safer and brighter future for endangered species,” said Ben Roberts, the chief technology innovation officer at Liquid Telecom.

The Lab is already helping the conservancy monitor the movement of the cattle grazing inside.

“This is a critical and exciting time for conservation globally and we have only begun to scratch the surface of what is possible when it comes to applying technology to wildlife protection,” said Joanna Elliott, senior director of conservation partnerships at Fauna & Flora International.

By sending  GPS signals, the chip can locate the rhinoceros and can alert park rangers when rhinos approach an area identified as particularly dangerous due to previous instances of poaching.

Combined with other warning sensors that can measure changes in temperature or movement of objects, they can be used to mobilise rescue teams in real time.

The technology is already being used to track rhinos in parks in Zimbabwe.