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To combat increasing wildlife crime, the Peace Parks Foundation is developing Smart Park, an integrated set of systems and technologiesonMicrosoftAzure designed to significantly enhance anti-poaching methods and protection for rhinos and other endangered wildlife by providing data-drivenand intelligent decision-making.
Southern Africa is home to some of the largest continuous populations of the world-famous “big five” animals: the lion, cape buffalo, leopard, elephant, and rhinoceros. Asit happens, most of these animals’ wildlife havens are located along international borders. In fact, about 75 percent of the rhinos in the world are found along the borders of South Africa, Botswana, Swaziland, and Zimbabwe.
Protecting and rebuilding dwindling wildlife numbers in these areas requires cross-boundary cooperation. Andin recent years, a movement to establish transboundary protected areas has taken off, thanks largely to the efforts of the Peace Parks Foundation(PPF). Based in Stellenbosch, South Africa, PPF was founded with the goal of facilitating cross-border conservation efforts and hasbeen actively involved in establishing and developing 10of the 18transboundaryconservationareasin southern Africa, called peace parks. PPF also provides strategic planning support to governments and other agencies in support of the parks, which cover roughly one million square kilometers. In recent years,wildlife crime has become a major issuein southern Africa. Already criticallyendangered, more than 1,000 rhinos are killed every yearfor their horns. But combating poaching is challenging for many reasons. Poachers often enter the park with high-caliber rifles,take many animals at one time,and then quickly escape undetectedwith the help of new technologies. Foryears, rangers had a competitive advantage over poachersthanks to radios. But with the recent proliferation of inexpensive cell phones, poachers can much more easily share information about rhino locations and evade patrols. At the same time, patrollers have vast ranges to cover and may often be misdirectedfor reasons like attendingto false breaches where an animal set off a fence alarm. Accurate and timely data is critical, but collecting and analyzing data from various partners across countries is challenging. Facilities within the parks are often remote and have little power, adding to the challenge of sharing timely information.
Using the cloud and AI to eliminate historical anti-poaching barriersIn the race to protect rhinos and other endangered species, new processes and technologies need to be deployed quickly to optimize resources and maintain an edge over poachers. Known for developing innovative solutions to combat wildlife crime, PPF set outto develop an integrated set of systems and technologies, or Smart Park, to do just that. The goal of the Smart Park solution is to make anti-poaching efforts more efficient by usingtechnology to seamlessly bring together data from various sources to providedata-driven, near real-time intelligent decision-making. In 2018, Microsoft Philanthropies awarded PPF a grant to support its move to the cloud and Microsoft AI for Earth awarded the foundation three grants to support various aspects of their work, including the Smart Park solution. The AI for Earth grant provides PPF with access to Microsoft cloud and AI tools to accelerate its work to prevent wildlife crime. With the cloud and AI, historical barriers to anti-poaching efforts disappear. For example, the Intelligent Camera Trap, a key component of the Smart Park, removes the limitations of any standard, standalone commercial camera trap and transforms it into an “edge device” in an ecosystem-based solution.
The above content is cited from https://ai4edatasetspublicassets.blob.core.windows.net/grantee-profiles/Peace%20Parks_Smart%20Park_Africa_Bio_AI4E%20Grantee%20Profile.pdf