Google Helps the Fight Against Illegal Poaching
The fight against illegal poaching has gone high-tech, thanks to Google’s new three-dimensional maps that help track elephants.
The 3D maps use data from satellite tracking elephant collars, which not only provides protection for the animals, but also protects their habitat.
The technology was created in part because the organized crime groups who are hunting the elephants are becoming more sophisticated with their own high-tech equipment. Conservationists thought it was time to level the playing field, or risk losing elephants for good.
“It is a priceless bank of information,” said Iain Douglas-Hamilton, head of conservation group Save the Elephants, reports PC Tech magazine. Douglas-Hamilton demonstrated the map, where tiny elephant computer icons were shown moving across an enormous television screen in nearly real-time. Hundreds of elephants in Africa were tagged back in 2005 with collars that cost about $8,000.
“The collars are able to tell us an animal is immobile, so we’re able to react very quickly to send our patrol teams,” said David Daballen, Save the Elephant’s head of field operations.
In addition to the maps, which use tracking technology overlaid on Google Earth (“And hence understand their migration patterns, and therefore build better protection around that,” said Farzana Khubchandani of Google), researchers track the complex elephant family trees, recording every animal with registration numbers.
The collaboration between Google and conservationists has been nearly a decade in the making, but seems to be paying off. Already, poaching is on the decline in a small region of Kenya, which is good news for the country. Kenya is struggling to maintain its elephant population — it’s estimated at only 30,000.
“It is an anomaly on the continent of Africa that we seem to have gone through the eye of the storm, and that poaching is on the decrease here,” Douglas-Hamilton said, although he reassured there could be no let up in efforts to protect the elephants.
“We’re doing all we can,” he said. “But the poachers are not going away.”