World Rhino Day is celebrated internationally on September 22nd each year in an effort to raise awareness about this critically endagered species and provide support in the fight against their extinction.
Today, there are only five species of Rhino left on earth - three of which are endangered. Poachers have taken the lives of over 10,000 Rhinos over the last decade, leaving less than 30,000 total alive on the planet today. Rhinos are ‘megaherbivores’, a type of keystone species, meaning they help shape our environment and keep the ecosystem in balance. If the Rhino population goes extinct, the effects could be globally catastrophic.
SPARK (Sentinel Protection Against Rhino Killing)
enChoice, Inc. has partnered with Welgevonden Game Reserve (WGR) to provide project management and technical support for the unique SPARK . This program aimed at using advanced technology including the Internet of Things (IoT), Artificial Intelligence (AI) and animal behavioral research to protect threatened species, in particular the Rhino, from devastating poaching threats. The project’s initial implementation is at the Welgevonden Game Reserve, located in the Limpopo Province of South Africa.
In celebration of World Rihno Day 2022, Francois Spruyt, Chairman of the Welgevonden Game Reserve, has shared an update on the recent status of the program.
Chairman of the Welgevonden Game Reserve
"I am privileged to have an opportunity to comment on enChoice’s commemoration of World Rhino Day 2022.
There was a time when the plight of rhinos and the terrible scourge them being killed by poachers was front-page news. But other world events, from Covid to the war in the Ukraine, have overshadowed their sad story.
On this commemoration my message to you is that the situation remains gloomy. Some metrics may suggest that fewer rhinos are being poached, but in reality, the situation continues on a downward spiral. While the absolute number of rhinos killed by poachers has declined, the real metric, that of what proportion of the remaining rhinos are being killed, remains extremely alarming.
Some of you may be aware of the IoT-based system we at Welgevonden Game Reserve developed in collaboration with Wageningen University & Research in the Netherlands, IBM and others. The Proof of Concept of this system, designed to detect poachers with the use of sentinel animals, was hugely successful. After a delay during Covid restrictions, we are now hard at work in productionising this system. The aim is to prevent poaching with a system that will detect poachers long before they get close to a rhino. Proactive, rather than reactive.
A key partner in this implementation is enChoice, who significantly funds our IT operations and has offered additional support in other areas, such as project management. Without this kind of support, we could not get this done. On behalf of our rhinos and our people, thank you enChoice."