Human-Wildlife Conflict across East Africa
Across biodiverse East Africa, environmental challenges brought on by climate change such as habitat loss and extreme weather seen through droughts and water scarcity have led to species migration in search of food and shelter which has in turn led to clashes with local communities, in particular rural groups, pastoralists, farmers and herders across the region. Additionally, increasing urbanisation and rapid infrastructural development have disrupted natural ecosystems, species corridors and led to more frequent human-wildlife encounters which have had negative consequences for both people and nature.
Conservation Technology Solutions
The pressing challenge that exists in human-wildlife conflict has led to conservationists and technologists across East Africa developing and adopting conservation technology solutions that are promoting the coexistence of wildlife and people through the use of various tools. These technologies have been deployed across protected areas and parks bordering farmlands, and within conservancies to better monitor wildlife movements and prevent crop destruction, human and settlement loss and wildlife poaching and crime. An array of different conservation technologies and tools continue to be innovated and utilized, such as using artificial intelligence, Internet of Things, GPS tracking collars, mobile and satellite technology and a set of other original technology adaptations. Here are a few great examples from across the region!
Outstanding East African Solutions
1. IoT Technology
Vodafone's IoT in the Wild Project: Using the Internet of Things, this solution works 24/7 using a combination of solar power and rechargeable batteries. Three to four cameras will search the entire circumference of a given area, which is illuminated with infra-red lights, to sense when an animal is approaching. Using a combination of deep learning, artificial intelligence and other computer vision algorithms, animals are detected and identified, triggering an appropriate deterrent such as flashing lights or a specific noise. Elephants, for example, are known to be deterred by the sound of a swarm of African bees. At the same time, IoT connectivity is used to send SMS alerts to the local community, and wider alerts and reports via a cloud server. These alerts contain information including the time, location and species identified, as well as what deterrent was activated. The AI runs on a Raspberry Pi and the entire system is housed in a robust and weatherproof enclosure.
2. Mobile Technology
The world’s leading mobile satellite communications company - Inmarsat's partnership with The International Gorilla Conservation Programme (IGCP) - a coalition of World Wildlife Fund and Fauna & Flora: Connectivity in remote mountain gorilla habitats can be challenging but using Inmarsat’s mobile satellite devices, the data collected by HuGo (Human Gorilla Conflict Resolution) programme groups can be transmitted via satellite in near real time. Key information is sent to UWA rangers and other HuGo members so that they can provide additional support if needed. The data is then stored on a central UWA server, where it is used to inform human-wildlife conflict mitigation work. The technology was established by UWA in response to escalating conflict related to attacks on crops and people by mountain gorillas and other wildlife.
3. Beehive Fence Technology
The Elephants and Bees Project: The Elephants and Bees Research Project is one of Save the Elephants’ innovative programs designed to explore the natural world for solutions to human-elephant conflict. Their innovative beehive fence project protects rural African farms from crop-raiding elephants. They have also developed The Human-Elephant Co-Existence Toolbox designed for trainers, project officers and community leaders to identify the source of conflict with elephants and then guide people on how best to protect their property with the resources available.
4. WildID & Camera Traps
Somali Giraffe Project: The Somali Giraffe Project under the Hirola Conservation Program works to conserve endangered reticulated giraffes in Eastern Kenya where they often clash with nomadic pastoralists due to population growth and changes in land use resulting in the disruption of giraffe corridors. The project aims to photograph giraffes and identify them using pattern recognition software such as WildID to determine their abundance. Additionally, camera traps are helping to identify giraffes during farm invasions. Read research assistant at the Hirola Conservation Programme and a lead researcher in the Somali Giraffe Project, Owino Raymond's interview on WILDLABS to learn more.
5. Satellite-linked GPS Collars
LUMO Community Wildlife Sanctuary between Tsavo West National Park and Taita Hills Wildlife Sanctuary: AWF is working with LUMO Conservancy where human-lion conflict is prevalent to collar lions as an effective way to track their movement and mitigate human-wildlife conflict where lions exist close to human settlements. The collars send real-time location updates to park authorities who can warn communities about the presence of lions in the vicinity and deploy wildlife officers or community conservancy scouts to respond to any incidents immediately. By tracking lion movements, authorities can avert potential incursions and attacks, allowing people and lions to coexist.
6. Sensor Technology
Ndovu Care Project: Developed by student - Sandra Maryanne from the Kajire Girls secondary school in Voi, the invention known as 'Anisan' simply consists of a GSM card, a motion detector, a warning light and a siren. The device is able to detect an elephant within a radius of 180 metres and then sends an alarm to the Kenya Wildlife Service (KWS) and the villagers, preparing them to take action before the animals start destroying crops or heading towards inhabited areas. Warning messages are sent to people whose phones are connected to the GSM card. You can read our interview with Sandra Maryanne here.
7. Lights Technology
Lion Lights: Developed by young Maasai conservationist and inventor @richardturere Lionlights promotes a sustainable, peaceful human-wildlife coexistence by deploying an automated lighting system designed to deter large predators, such as lions, leopards, hyenas, and cheetahs, from killing livestock held in bomas.
Are you using technology to mitigate human-wildlife conflict across East Africa? We want to hear from you. Let us know down in the comments what human-wildlife conflict challenges you are facing, which technologies you have adopted and how is it working out. Looking forward to learning about your innovative journeys.