British nonprofit animal conservation group Protect has come up with a new way to fight poachers, and it involves outfitting rhinos with their own versions of tech wearables. The system relies on three pieces of technology to track and monitor the animals: heart rate monitors under the skin, a GPS transmitter around the neck, and a camera embedded in the horn after a hole is (painlessly) drilled. The technology is called Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device (RAPID), and is already being tested on threatened rhino populations in South Africa.
RAPID works by monitoring the animals’ heart rate and location, so if the pulse suddenly elevates or plummets, or if the rhino abruptly stops moving, the system will warn conservationists that its likely under attack, and they can activate the camera and see what’s going on in real-time. Sample footage of the horn-cam can be seen below.
In the event that poachers are detected, the authorities can be dispatched to the rhino’s exact location thanks to the GPS coordinates. But the real hope is that once RAPID is in wide use and well-known, it will prevent poachers from even trying to kill an animal, as they’ll know they’re likely to be caught within minutes.
While the real benefit is saving the animal’s life, it’s also great that RAPID doesn’t bother or interfere with them, as all three components are wireless and don’t cause any pain or risk to the rhino, including the camera. As for the heart monitor, the battery only needs to be changed a few times throughout a rhino’s lifetime.
Protect says it hopes to have RAPID widely deployed by late 2016, following more prototype tests. They are also looking into ways to power the heart monitor with solar or kinetic energy, eliminating batteries altogether. There is also hope they can adapt RAPID to help protect other endangered species, including elephants, lions, tigers, and whales.