Last month, the last male northern white rhinoceros died highlighting, once again, the battle to save many of the world's endangered species. At least three species of rhino are considered "critically endangered", with the greater on-horned rhino, with a population of about just 3,500 considered "vulnerable".
Perhaps, though, techniques being adopted to help save endangered elephants could help?
Technology clearly has a major role to play in the fight for conservation, but while efforts have become more and more sophisticated over time, it's also clear that a technology gap still hinders the ability of many NGOs and governments from adequately protecting endangered animals.
Consider that many of the individuals tasked with doing this often don't have technology backgrounds: they are frequently biologists and conservationists. On the other hand, modern poachers are incredibly well resourced - sometimes using helicopters, tracking equipment and sophisticated weapons to poach elephants and rhinos, among other species.
This gap must be plugged, and one specific way to do so is through better capture, integration and use of data.
Dutch social enterprise Sensing Clues is one organisation that has developed sophisticated sensor technology in collaboration with several organisations with the aim of protecting endangered species. This technology has been put into the hands of rangers and conservationists across Europe and Africa with encouraging results to date.
One project has seen Sensing Clues join forces with a number of partners to develop an early warning system for rangers tasked with protecting elephants from poachers in Kenya.
The system, a data hub framework, combines a number of different technologies: smart IoT sensors to detect human activity in remote locations, storage and management of complex data sets, analytical intelligence for spatial awareness and response coordination technologies - all driven by a modern NoSQL database.
As part of the system, sound sensors can also distinguish between different types of vehicles and weapons, while light sensors deployed across large uninhabited spaces can pick up humans using artificial light sources.
The technology also enables rangers to produce and easily analyse and understand enormous data sets. With this 360-degree view of data they can now easily see when people are entering restricted areas, enabling them to react more quickly to threats. Similar technology is also being deployed in Sweden where the poaching of wolves is a serious problem.
However, the deployment of this kind of technology is not only limited to the fight against poaching. Despite a recent rise in the population, Nepal only has around 250 tigers in the wild, with road accidents one of the biggest causes of tiger deaths in the country, rather than poaching.
Another project led by Sensing Clues has therefore seen IoT sensors deployed along roads in Nepal's Bardiya National Park, which produce data sets around the behaviours of drivers. As a result, rangers are able to analyse the data and understand the danger spots for tigers, subsequently steering the animals away from these areas and also diverting drivers.
The continued decline of animal populations around the world is an alarming trend. However, as recent technological advances deployed by organisations such as Sensing Clues have shown, we may now have the tools to help us conserve and protect endangered species.
The key to accomplishing this will be integrating all types of data from different sources or silos, as we can see from how Sensing Clues is able to take information from beyond one sensor and gain a 360-degree view of the situation. I think if there is one lesson that can be learned from this, it's that data really does matter, and so does the technology behind it.
David Northmore is vice president EMEA of NoSQL database vendor MarkLogic.
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