Breakthrough in Rhino Conservation
by Farirayi Kahwemba
RUSTENBURG - In a development that might have far reaching benefits for Zimbabwe’s fight against rhino poachers, scientists and conservationists in neighbouring South Africa have developed a first of its kind GPS device that will enable game rangers to be made aware of poachers when they strike, The Zimbabwean has learnt. (Pictured: Rhino – hunted for their horns)
Five rhinos in South Africa’s North West province have already been fitted with these gadgets as part of a study before the tracking system is implemented in wildlife and conservation areas throughout the country. Rusty Huslter, head of Counter Poaching in the North West province, said the technology would go a long way in aiding the fight against rhino poaching not only in South Africa but in other regional countries such as Zimbabwe and Zambia, who face similar challenges.
He said: “This is the first time that the device is going to be used and we are very happy that we will be able to help other countries such as Zimbabwe, Zambia and others who face numerous challenges when it comes to dealing with rhino poaching.
“The GPS gadget is fitted into the rhino’s horn by drilling a hole in the inert part of the horn. The animals’ movements are then tracked twenty four hours a day and if they are attacked, game rangers will be alerted via the alarms.” The device is battery-operated and connected to a computer and cellular phone. The lifespan of the batteries in the device is two and a half years after which they will be exchanged for new ones.
The GPS can be programmed to emit a signal every 60 seconds and can be adjusted from an operating room. It is programmed to set off the alarm if the rhino remains motionless for more than six hours or if there is excessive movement. In South Africa, more than 240 rhinos have been killed since the beginning of the year and of these, 40 were from the North West Province
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