19 Year Old Kenyan Girl Develops Device to Stop Elephant Poaching
Poaching is irresponsible, criminal, and, if it happens to take place where you hunt, obnoxious. Unfortunately, it’s tough to stop an industry valued at multi-billions. The annual body-count of poaching feeds a market for products that include trophies, ivory, hides, meat, and medicine. Critics often point to China —Traditional Chinese Medicine sometimes calls for animal ingredients—but this isn’t entirely fair. American demand for ivory drives one of the single largest illegal harvests in the world, with last year’s spiking to a recent high of more than 20,000.
Kenya’s elephant population is barely recovered from its low of 20,000 in the 1980s. But one Kenyan girl may have found a way to help.
Mercy Sigey has been visiting the local animal reserves since she was three years old. She’s 19 now, and a student. She started working on the chip after last year’s elephant harvest killed one too many. Satao, a large, 45-year old bull elephant, was taken by a poisoned arrow in May. Sigey said that his death affected her deeply.
“I’m sure all of you here sitting in this hall would want to see an elephant standing magnificently and not lying down dead on the ground,” she said, during her presentation at the United Nations Social Good Summit.
Sigey worked with a team of fellow students and Innovate Kenya to develop a simple fix. Sigey’s solution uses a small motion sensor that can be placed at strategic locations around the park. The sensor notifies park rangers anytime someone comes within nine meters. As a bonus the sensor can also alert park officials to brush fires.
The sensor is controlled by the Arduino, a simple open source piece of computer hardware with a number of potential uses. The key is its bare-bones design and affordability. The part—which is classified as a single-board micro controller—has everything needed to control a sensor, and it’s available for as little as $9 dollars. For a rough comparison, most motion-sensing wildlife cameras cost several times that.
If it’s successful, this kind of technology could be put to all sorts of conservation uses. Most poaching takes place on federal and park land. Park land is difficult to police. It’s empty, lonely, and easy to get lost in—that’s the whole point. A device like Sigey’s could go a long way to curbing domestic poaching. A mass-market version could even help hunters protect private land from incursions by poachers.
For the original story, check Takepart’s website.