Thanks to a bit of fresh technology, enforcement officials will soon have a powerful new tool in their arsenal to catch poachers.
The tool is called WIPER. It consists of a sensor to detect when a weapon is fired using wireless nodes to detect and locate the source of the gunfire. WIPER can detect gunshots even if a silencer is utilized and it is able to detect a shot within 50 meters of a collared animal (so just one collared elephant can help save an entire herd).
The technology was developed by Elephant Scientist George Wittemyer from Colorado State University and Vanderbilt University Computer Engineering Professor Akos Ledeczi as a hardware upgrade to GPS-collars that many wild elephants already wear.
Technology can be a powerful tool to reduce crimes against animals. WIPER has the potential to significantly boost the ability to catch poachers in the act — and most importantly, save endangered animals’ lives.
Wittenmyer and Ledeczi have a goal of equipping 100 elephants every year with WIPER, and keeping their software open-source and freely available to GPS-collar manufacturers with the intention of making it a common feature.
A global ivory trade ban was adopted in 1989. Still, an estimated 27,000 elephants are killed every year by poachers for their ivory. Poachers gun down elephants, rhinos, and other wild animals without regard for the families, communities, and ecosystems they are destroying. Despite good faith efforts by nongovernmental organizations, foundations, and countries it’s an uphill battle to stop poaching. Now, we have one more tool to help.