Wildlife poaching threatens biodiversity and the economic wellbeing of many countries who benefit from eco-tourism. Stopping poaching requires effort on multiple fronts, including collecting data about poaching incidents and biodiversity indicators.
On the Director’s Fellows retreat in Kenya this past May, we met with staff from Wildlife Works (located just outside of Tsavo National Park) to learn about how they track incidents of poaching and monitor biodiversity.
From our conversations with Wildlife Works rangers, we learned that their team spends inordinate time recording data on paper, and then transcribing and uploading that data to computers. We think that making it easier for rangers and scientists to collect, sync, and store data will give them more time to attend to other critical aspects of their work, such as tracking down poachers and educating community members about the value of protecting Kenya’s wildlife.
To support the Wildlife Works rangers in their work, David Kobia is leading a team at both the MIT Media Lab and the iHub in Nairobi to create a mobile data collection app that will help rangers spend less time collecting data and more time using it. This app will allow rangers to collect field data from incidents of poaching, trespassing, and coal logging as well as logging flora and fauna. The team will also create a ruggedized phone case to make this data collection system suitable for use across the savannah.