Cisco UK & Ireland Blog

We’re helping to save the rhino – here’s how

July 31, 2019

You don’t need to be a conservationist to know that the world’s wildlife is in serious trouble.

Last year, the World Wildlife Fund (WWF) released its Living Planet Report 2018, which painted a grim picture of humanity’s impact on nature.

Between 1970 and 2014, the number of vertebrates on our planet fell by 60%. In some regions like South America, populations fell by a staggering average of 86%.

There are numerous contributing factors to these declines, and it’s clear that any solution will only be possible with a degree of collective responsibility. However, one small group of people are having a disproportionately large impact on our wildlife: poachers.

Poaching is the single biggest threat to the ongoing survival of a number of animal species, including the rhino.

In 2015 alone, 1,175 rhinos were killed by poachers. At the current rate at which they are being killed, rhinos will be extinct in South Africa by 2025.

The problem is only getting worse as the individuals committing these crimes have become increasingly technologically sophisticated.

And the rangers who stand guard are also putting their lives on the line. In the past ten years, more than 1,000 rangers have been killed in the service of these animals.

But in the last few years, a new wave of conservationism has risen, spearheaded by tech firms like ours. Through strategic collaboration, we are adapting technology to better protect these endangered animals, in the hope of bringing creatures like the rhino back from the edge of extinction.

How it all started

In 2014, we launched Cisco’s Connected Conservation programme and, for the pilot project, decided to partner up with a private reserve in South Africa.

The reserve in question had lost more than a rhino a week to poachers the year before, a total of 54 rhinos, and were looking for help.

So, in partnership with Dimension Data, a global systems integrator and managed services provider based in Johannesburg, we implemented several solutions to help secure the reserve.

We installed LoRaWAN Wi-Fi, CCTV cameras, acoustic fibre surveillance, and electric fencing around the area in the hope that it would have some impact on the number of rhinos poached.

And it worked.

In just one year, the number of rhinos poached from the reserve fell from 54 to zero – an incredible result. As well as these poaching reports falling to zero, the project also had the added benefit of decreasing instances of illegal fishing in the area.

We also worked with a South African non-profit to develop and implement an IoT solution in the Ezemvelo Nature Reserve. We attached sensors to the park’s rhinos to measure heart rate and blood pressure – which can show basic signals of distress – in order to help rangers identify possible poaching incidents. Taking the lessons we learned in the pilot, and using our experience in commercialisation and scalability, we were able to grow our conservation programme. We brought in new partners and non-profits and began spreading our solutions for wildlife conservation around the world.

Save This Rhino

Even as we evolved Connected Conservation to take on more challenges, we never stopped striving for one of our earliest conservation goals: bringing rhino poaching down to zero in South Africa.

So, in 2018, in an effort to really ramp up awareness in the fight against poaching, we teamed up with National Geographic – arguably the biggest voice in wildlife conservation.

Cisco Conservation paired Cisco executives Dave Ward and Ruba Borno with filmmaker Michael Lawrence. Together, they travelled to South Africa to document the work being done to eliminate rhino poaching in the country.

Save This Rhino follows former England cricketer, South African native, and avid conservationist, Kevin Pietersen, as he reveals the incredible struggles and successes the men and women on the front lines of this fight face daily.

To bring the massive project to fruition, we again partnered with Dimension Data, along with Land Rover South Africa, and shot the entire film with Canon equipment.

The documentary, which premiered this June on National Geographic, is an inspirational, moving story and I would highly recommend you give it a watch. At the heart of the story, what brought the project into existence and has sustained, is the very real passion many of us have for this cause.

Watch a preview clip of part one below:

The fight continues

This, of course, is just the beginning. South Africa is just one country blighted by poaching, and we’re working on and planning several other conservation projects around the world.

In Zambia, we’re using a boat tracking solution equipped with thermal cameras to monitor human movement to better protect the nation’s elephants.

But there is still so much we can do, and we plan to continue to grow Connected Conservation through thoughtful partnerships which make a real difference.

With the right tools, willpower and teamwork, we can help build a better future for these beautiful animals.

Click here to find out more about Cisco’s Connected Conservation

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