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Monday, 6 November 2017   /   published in Rhinos

Black Rhinos in Tanzania Now Monitored via Sensors Implanted Directly in Their Horns

By Mike Gaworecki on 24 October 2017
  • In a first for the species, several black rhinos in Tanzania’s Mkomazi National Park have had small, networked sensors embedded directly in their horns in order to allow park rangers to monitor the animals much more closely than in the past.
  • The sensors make use of LoRaWAN technology (which stands for “Long Range Wide Area Network”), designed to allow low-powered devices, like sensors in rhino horns, to communicate with Internet-connected devices, like computers in a ranger station, over long-range wireless networks.
  • LoRaWAN is one of several technologies currently being put to use for real-time monitoring of wildlife. The network in Tanzania’s Mkomazi National Park, where the sensors were recently deployed, covers the entire rhino sanctuary in the park.

  • A sensor being implanted in a black rhino’s horn. Photo courtesy of ShadowView Foundation.
  • Other Smart Parks technologies being utilized in Mkomazi National Park’s control room include solar-powered LoRaWAN-based sensors that track when gates of the 50-square-kilometer rhino sanctuary within the park are opened or closed, solar-powered vehicle trackers that allow for monitoring of park personnel and tourists in high-risk areas, and digital radios for voice communication with ranger patrols.
  • “Rhinos always need protection from the foot patrol — rangers protecting every individual rhino,” van Dam told Mongabay. Combining all of the systems used to manage and protect the park in one networked command center ensures that rangers can always be close to the rhinos and able to take action or call for help quickly. “Any strange behavior will be detected and the park rangers will step in.”
  • When they’re running, black rhinos can achieve top speeds over 50 kilometers or 30 miles an hour, meaning humans can only keep up in a car or on a motorbike. But van Dam said that the rhinos typically move quite slow, making it easy to tell when they’re stressed. However, the goal is not to simply be reactive when a poacher enters the park or a rhino runs into some other kind of trouble: “Most intel is used to prevent such situations, so most of the time the system is used for tactical reasons,” van Dam added.

The black rhinoceros, also known as the hook-lipped rhinoceros, is listed as Critically Endangered on the IUCN Red List. The species is also listed on CITES Appendix I, meaning that all international commercial trade of black rhinos or products derived from the animals is prohibited.