This rhino is loaded with technology: it has a camera embedded in its horn, a GPS transmitter around its neck and a heartrate monitor tracking its pulse. But it’s not just some weird wearables experiment — it’s an attempt to stop poaching.
The new slew of rhino technology is known as RAPID — Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device — and it was developed by a British nonprofit conservation organisation called Protect.
The technology is already being trialled in South Africa.
When a rhino wearing the technology has a surge or drop in heart rate, the horn-mounted camera — which you can see footage from just below — is activated so that a control center can see what’s happening to the animal. If the team suspects that the rhino in question is being attacked or captured, they can track it using GPS and send out anti-poaching patrols.
While boring a hole into a rhino’s horn is a shame — and, presumably, not straightforward either — it’s not painful and certainly better than the alternative fate, where the whole thing could be removed by a poacher. “It acts as a deterrent so that poachers realise that any animal that’s got one of these collars or units attached to it is basically off the list,” said Steve Piper, a director at Protect, to The Verge.
The wireless systems have been developed to minimise battery drain, so new power supplies need only be installed a “few” times over the course of a single rhino’s life. The team plan to equip more rhinos with these devices in the future, as well as exploring ways to harvest energy from the animal’s movement to remove the need for batteries.