Tech firm Sigfox is developing small tracker to help in the fight against rhino poaching

PARIS (Reuters) – the French tech company Sigfox has a bite-sized tracker that can be inserted into the horns of rhinos, to help conservationists monitor and protect endangered species.

FILE PHOTO: Marion Moreau, Head of Sigfox Foundation, states in an interview with Reuters on the French tech company Sigfox offices in Paris, France, December 7, 2018. REUTERS/Philippe Wojazer

With the dramatic decline of the species in the past century, mostly as a result of poaching and urban sprawl, wildlife organizations have turned to technology to protect species are pushed toward extinction.

The overall number of rhinos have dwindled to around 20,000 years ago by ruthless poaching, though they have rebounded to about 29,000 thanks to the efforts.

Cameras, infrared and motion sensors, electronic bracelets and drones have been used over the years to protect endangered species, but are sometimes limited by the vast distances and limited resources in the countries concerned.

Sigfox, which is known for building networks that link objects on the internet, has developed sensors able to pinpoint the exact location of rhinos with the help of the fixed network over a longer period of time.

“We help rangers and conservation experts to observe from a distance, take fewer risks, and especially to anticipate potential dangers, which the animal could (face),” Marion Moreau, head of the non-profit Sigfox Foundation, told Reuters.

The sensors can alert the park rangers when they approach an area identified as particularly dangerous because of previous cases of poaching. In combination with other sensors warning, they can be used for emergency services to the location in real-time.

“We started a project in Zimbabwe three years ago, the invention of a prototype of a discovery, which is inserted in the horn of about 30 rhinos, which gives the exact position of the rhino three times per day, for three years,” says Moreau.

The Sigfox network uses a specific radio signal that provides more security than other tracking devices. The sensor is only awake when it is to transmit data, making it immune to interception by poachers, she said.

Moreau said Sigfox is intended that the trackers for long-term operation with an autonomous battery-life of approximately three years. The cost would also be limited to $30 per sensor.

Sigfox worked with conservationists and specialist groups, including the International Rhino Foundation in the development of the small sensor. It is also the cooperation with the Jane Goodall Institute, a non-profit organization that protects the primacy of the habitats, in the use of new technologies for conservation.

Writing by Bate Felix; Editing by Mark Heinrich

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