Africa’s wild elephants and rhinos are being driven to the edge of extinction: poachers, trophy hunters, and wildlife traffickers are killing or capturing three rhinos per day and up to four elephants every hour, on average. As the threat level facing Africa’s wildlife continues to grow, traditional methods of supporting conservation efforts are no longer enough.

Catching poachers is a time- and resource-intensive task: it is also typically a largely low-tech effort. In one protected African reserve, 40 trail cameras can record when people breach the restricted zone. But due to the lack of funding and manpower, the staff members residing miles away must review the footage, decide if the threat is real, and then dispatch a team to fly to the area. Often, they arrive too late to be of any use.

Looking for a creative solution, a bold non-profit organization called Elephants, Rhinos & People (ERP) has decided to search for a creative way to fight one of the world’s tragic problems with support from SAP. They have brought a tactical program—“ERP Air Force”—into life, which, using SAP technologies, has built a novel solution to change the way ERP conservationists protect and monitor endangered wildlife. ERP Air Force makes it possible to combat poaching with modern methods, without needing to extensively maintain or invest in on-premise infrastructure. With a unique combination of data collection and artificial intelligence (AI) used to identify threats, the playing field against poachers starts to even out.

The original idea behind ERP Air Force was to put “eyes in the sky” instead of more boots on the ground. The elephant and rhino herds in certain sensitive Southern African conservation areas are now being monitored by using drones, decisively reducing the response time to threats. By tying together multiple data sources and using AI algorithms, the ERP Air Force’s “Find my Elephants” tool can help conservationists act speedily enough to make a difference.

“As you can imagine, manual processes like sitting and reviewing footage just doesn’t cut it in the fast-paced world of anti-poaching where every second counts,” says David Allen, ERP Air Force director. “We need to automate as many processes as possible, taking full advantage of Internet of Things (IoT) sensors and analysis. This lets us feed inputs into our AI engine and get automated alerts about a threat.”

Catching Poachers – How Technology Helps

By using SAP technologies, ERP can replace manual steps in the monitoring process and automate the analysis of data from multiple sources, including:

  • Trail video cameras to capture perimeter breaches
  • Pan-Tilt-Zoom video cameras with ultra-low light capabilities
  • License plate recognition detectors to flag vehicles and count the number of occupants
  • Drone footage in both real time and post-flight
  • Infrared cameras to identify people in the dark

The app’s mobile interface lets users view the real-time process.  First, data is captured in the form of digital images. This data from drones gets combined with GPS data from animal collars and sent through the AI algorithms to determine a positive or negative threat prediction in real time. If the threat is deemed positive, notification is shared across the team, including an aerial drone that receives coordinate data. The drone then flies to the location. Users can view real-time data from the drone and decide if action is needed.

Besides access to SAP software, ERP enjoys the full support of expertise within the SAP Africa team, with SAP Co-Innovation Lab acting as the hub where conservationists and SAP experts can collaborate to find new applications for the latest technology in support of ERP Air Force’s anti-poaching efforts. Through projects such as these, SAP technology is becoming a critical component to wildlife protection efforts.

A Better World

ERP believes that if elephants and rhinos have safe places to live in the wild, all species of wildlife can thrive there as well. With technologies that harness, store, and analyze vast amounts of data in real time, we can understand our ecosystems in a far deeper way – and work together to help humans and wildlife coexist in harmony. Powered by determination and SAP, ERP is now changing people’s lives in poor, rural areas and saving more wild elephants and rhinos. In areas in which ERP Air Force has an active drone presence, poaching has been reduced to zero.

For more information, please visit  https://www.erp.ngo.

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Top image via Epi-Use