Horn cam aims to safeguard rhinos

Rhinos wearing satellite-tracking collars with spy cameras implanted into their horns could help turn the tables on poachers, experts believe.

The system incorporates a video camera, GPS, and a 24-hour heart-rate monitor that triggers an alarm the moment a rhino is shot.

Poachers caught in the trap will have no time to escape as park rangers are helicoptered to the scene of the crime within minutes.

Video footage captured by the miniature horn camera will then provide the evidence needed to secure a conviction.

The hope is that the technology, which could be trialled in South Africa in the next six to nine months, will act as an effective deterrent against out-of-control rhino poaching. It could also be adapted for other hunted animals, including elephants and tigers.

Dr Paul O’Donoghue, who developed the Protect RAPID (Real-time Anti Poaching Intelligence Device) system and has worked with endangered black rhino populations for more than 15 years, said: “Currently a rhino is butchered every six hours in Africa. The issues are many, but there’s far too much money at stake to believe that legislation alone can make the difference.

“We had to find a way to protect these animals effectively in the field; the killing has to be stopped,” said Dr O’Donoghue, also a lecturer in biological sciences at the University of Chester.

“With this device, the heart-rate monitor triggers the alarm the instant a poaching event occurs, pin-pointing the location within a few metres so that rangers can be on the scene via helicopter or truck within minutes, leaving poachers no time to harvest the valuable parts of an animal or make good an escape.

“You can’t outrun a helicopter — the Protect RAPID renders poaching a pointless exercise.”

Patrolling every part of the vast landscapes where rhinos live is effectively impossible, meaning poachers often operate with no risk of being caught.

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