Poachers beware: Instant Wild camera system has its eye on you

The Kenya Wildlife Service has a powerful new tool in its fight against the poachers who threaten endangered species living in the country's most remote areas: a high-tech network of custom cameras built by UK-based Cambridge Consultants called Instant Wild that can instantly locate illegal activity as well as keep tabs on nearby animals.

The KWS partnered with the Zoological Society of London on the project, which worked with Cambridge Consultants to create the system.

Based on the bare-bones Raspberry Pi mini-computer, each camera unit packs an array of different technologies. Motion sensors trigger the main camera, which uses an infrared flash, allowing nighttime operation and keeping the unit from being detected. Vibration sensors can detect the presence of nearby vehicles, and microphones can pick up the sound of gunshots and locate them via triangulation with other units on the network.

The units are stress-tested against the elements and against damage from curious animals, and are designed to operate for as long as possible on one battery charge.

KWS deputy director of wildlife conservation Patrick Omondi said in a statement that the system represents an important step forward."We manage around 8% of the total land mass of Kenya," he said. "These cameras will be critical in helping us monitor the well being of rare animals and ensure their habitats remain protected from poachers."

The group says that, currently, a rhino is killed every 11 hours in Africa a result of recent spikes in demand for products made from the animals' horns. Authorities there face serious difficulties in curbing poaching activity earlier this month, a rhino was killed by poachers and its horn "hacked out" and stolen in one of Kenya's most secure national parks, according to AFP.

Email Jon Gold at jgold@nww.com and follow him on Twitter at @NWWJonGold.

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