article / 22 December 2015

Mobile Phone Reporting for Rapid Wildlife Health Response in Uganda

Margaret Driciru, Senior Warden & Wildlife Veterinarian with the Uganda Wildlife Authority, showcases how mobile reporting technology is being used in the field to monitor, collect data, and send rapid alerts when lions and other species are in distress.

In her talk at the 2015 Fuller Symposium, The Invisible Hand: Mobile Phone Reporting Technology for Rapid Wildlife Health Response in Uganda, Margaret Driciru showcases technology that is being used to monitor, collect data, and send rapid alerts when wildlife are in distress in Ugandan Parks.  Ms. Driciru presents a mobile phone reporting system that has been developed for the Uganda Wildlife Authority, and evaluates some of the pitfalls of using tech in the field--including what has not worked, and lessons that can be learned.

The Uganda Wildlife Authority manages 10 national parks, 10 wildlife reserves and 13 wildlife sanctuaries. Queen Elizabeth National Park, where Ms. Driciru is based, is home to 96 mammal species and over 600 bird species. There are numerous threats to wildlife health in the Park, including anthrax, Marburg virus, poaching, human-wildlife conflict and invasive species. Wildlife authorities face the challenge of quickly identifying and responding to wildlife health issues, as they arise.

Ms. Driciru explains that conventional responses to wildlife health emergencies involve launching patrols that can take 4-6 days to access and assess conditions, using GPS units to survey areas and filing field reports on return. In these scenarios, it can take up to a week to report wildlife health emergencies, lab results may be received within 17 days, and response may be delayed up to 24 days. Wildlife is often lost in the interim. By using an early response system, interventions can occur within 11 days, allowing for more wildlife to be saved. This rapid response system has been made possible through the use of a mobile reporting system.

In 2010, the Episurveyor/Magpi mobile phone reporting system was released. Using JAVA and GPS on mobile Nokia phones, Ugandan rangers on patrol are now able to send reports in real time, answering queries such as what animal is effected, suspected cause of death, and locations of incidents. Within a year of using this system, 230 animals were reported, 199 of which were dead. One-hundred and thirteen (48.9%) of carcasses were 0-3 days old. Unknown factors were the leading cause of animal deaths. Disease, poaching and snares were also significant documented factors.

Ms. Driciru asserts that without mobile reporting systems there would be more animal deaths and altered social dynamics in wildlife populations. In the future, CyberTracker is also being explored for integrated wildlife monitoring.


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