A herd of wild African elephants are sauntering towards a watering hole deep inside a national park in Kenya. Manpower and budget constraints have prevented the park from deploying adequate rangers for surveillance and upkeep—allowing poachers to sneak in and ambush this herd. Fortunately, the park has installed motion-sensing cameras that transmit real-time pictures and data via satellites to crowdsourced volunteers across the globe. Thousands of miles away, a poaching alarm is relayed to your cell phone. You instantly alert the park authorities, who swing into action.
Over the years, satellite technology has taken precedence over other forms of technology to monitor, track, and locate wildlife in terrestrial and marine environments. Today, popular ways in which conservationists are using satellite information include wildlife tracking through GPS receivers or satellite-based motion-triggered cameras.
Wildlife GPS tracking, popularly called ‘tagging’, involves monitoring radio signals sent from a transmitting device that is attached to an animal under observation or one belonging to an endangered species. The GPS tag calculates the location of the animal in real-time using positions estimated by a network of satellites, and transmits this information at regular time intervals through a communication network. Animal tracking data helps researchers analyse the movement and migration patterns of terrestrial and aquatic life-forms.
Satellite technology has revolutionized the manner in which endangered wildlife in highly inaccessible areas are monitored. Motion-triggered cameras are being used by wildlife agencies to not only study animal behaviour, but also to curb the menace of poaching. As part of the ‘Instant Wild’ project, satellite-connected and motion-triggered cameras wirelessly collect and transmit pictures and other data from the remotest corners of the world through the Iridium satellite network. Any movement by animals, vehicles, or poachers will trigger these smart cameras to take multiple photos less than a second apart and transmit them in real-time to authorities. These photographs also serve as evidence in the prosecution of poachers. This real-time relay of images enables swift action as opposed to older technology, where images had to be physically retrieved from cameras and transmitted over cellular networks—a boon for agencies combating this problem in poaching hotspots worldwide.
Complementing the ‘Instant Wild’ project is the ‘Instant Wild’ mobile app, which makes real-time images of wildlife available to users across the world, encouraging ordinary people to monitor the well-being of wildlife species and actively contribute towards conservation activities.
Another notable initiative in conserving wildlife has been in the case of Antarctic penguins. Three high-tech satellite-connected cameras installed near the South Pole, send high-resolution images of Antarctic penguins to researchers—helping them study the effect of the melting ice on the birds' population.
Do you see the use of satellite technology in other areas? Share your thoughts with us in the section below.
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