Integrated technology platform to support conservation – protecting wildlife and people

Ol Pejeta Conservancy
Published: 08 October 2021
Last edited: 14 October 2021
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Summary

Ol Pejeta is home to the largest population of critically endangered black rhinos in E. Africa. Protecting them and other wildlife is a great responsibility and we utilize technology where it adds value. In 2019 we rolled out EarthRanger (ER), a software platform that collects protected area activity information (the animals and assets being protected, the rangers protecting them, and threats of potential poaching) into a single, integrated, real-time visualized operational platform. It amalgamates data from different sources including animal GPS tracking collars, ranger digital radio systems/vehicle trackers, and ranger recorded observations. ER allows us to see key information in one place, enabling informed and faster conservation-related operational decisions.

ER was developed in collaboration with Vulcan Inc. through our Conservation Tech Lab. The Lab acts as a field-based space for technologists and scientists to test and deploy solutions, but also as a center for collaboration, learning and sharing knowledge.

Classifications

Region
East and South Africa
Scale of implementation
Local
Ecosystem
Agro-ecosystem
Grassland ecosystems
Rangeland / Pasture
Temperate grassland, savanna, shrubland
Theme
Connectivity / transboundary conservation
Land management
Poaching and environmental crime
Protected and conserved areas management planning
Species management
Challenges
Drought
Erratic rainfall
Land and Forest degradation
Loss of Biodiversity
Poaching
Changes in socio-cultural context
Unemployment / poverty
Sustainable development goals
SDG 15 – Life on land
Aichi targets
Target 11: Protected and conserved areas
Target 12: Reducing risk of extinction
Target 19: Sharing information and knowledge
Sendai Framework
Target 7: Increase the availability of and access to multi-hazard early warning systems and disaster risk information and assessments to the people by 2030

Location

Nanyuki, Laikipia, Kenya
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Challenges

The main challenges include:

  • Effective protection of endangered wildlife with limited resources and over large areas. The Conservancy covers 110,000 acres and with only 3 field-based teams patrolling at any one time, it is crucial that we can focus our rangers in the right places at the right times. It is also critical to automatically identify areas that are not adequately monitored/patrolled and measures to address this can be put in place
  • Current methods of collecting and reporting field data (wildlife monitoring, anti-poaching, fencing) are largely manual and require updating. Digitising this will enable faster transfer of accurate data from the source.
  • Navigating data sets and systems and accessing them quickly to inform decisions. We use a range of different technologies and data. Knowing where to look for what information and in full context was a challenge.  

Beneficiaries

The main beneficiaries are Ol Pejeta’s staff – the rangers, security, Ecological Monitoring Unit, and conservation management team. In addition, the 20 communities (35,000 people) living around the conservancy through enhanced human wildlife conflict response.

How do the building blocks interact?

Building block 1 (platform solution design) provides the overall framework for the integration of different data sets. Building block 2 (ranger report design) is one of those data sets and a key source of information that underpins the platform. The platform and data sets work together to provide easy and quick access to the right information in one place to inform effective decision making. Digitisation of ranger reports allows faster transfer of accurate data. The visual display of different data also supports this decision making, allowing effective deployment of patrols in high-risk areas and rapid response to security and human wildlife conflict incidents. This supports effective operations, improving the security and health of wildlife and protecting community livelihoods.

Impacts

Environmental:

  • Enhanced protection of wildlife. ER has been critical to supporting our security efforts and we have had zero poaching on the conservancy for 3 years. It also forms part of our ecological monitoring efforts which allow us to protect all wildlife.
  • Evidence-based conservation management planning. Combining real time and historic data through Tableau analytics has provided richer information to support longer term planning. Appropriate management strategies and approaches are informed by evidence.

Social:

  • Safety and security for our patrol staff. Switching from analog comms to digital, and trackers on radios and vehicles ensures we know where our rangers are and can respond quickly in the event of an incident in the field, ultimately saving lives.
  • Managing Human Wildlife Conflict to support the 35,000 people living in communities around the conservancy. ER supports us in being able to respond to reported incidents rapidly and effectively. Data analysis enables us to monitor trends and deploy effective mitigation strategies.

Economic:

  • Operational efficiency. Effective deployment of 150 field staff ensuring no gaps in ranger patrol coverage.

Story

Our EarthRanger platform integrates data from corridor monitoring cameras, identifying objects and movements, and distinguishing between people, vehicles, and animals. In one situation, the cameras triggered an alert after a vehicle was identified in the corridor – a space usually inaccessible to most. EarthRanger sent an image of the vehicle in real-time, alerting us to suspected potential poachers. The alert meant we were able to respond rapidly in a way we had not before. Security teams were sent immediately to the corridor.

 

Our fears were unfounded when the vehicle turned out to be lost tourists! Thankful that we were not dealing with a serious security incident, we were able to share with our visitors information on the EarthRanger system, how it works, and the benefits to conservation. This provided us with an unique engagement opportunity and a very different tourism experience for them!

Contributed by

Kate Terriere Ol Pejeta Conservancy