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New satellite-enabled solution to protect African wildlife

Inmarsat, global mobile satellite communications provider, has joined forces with RESOLVE, the Washington DC-based non-profit environmental and health organisation, to develop a satellite-enabled solution to safeguard endangered wildlife across Africa

RESOLVE’s Biodiversity and Wildlife team have developed an end-to-end anti-poaching system TrailGuard AI. Intel played a critical role in development, providing engineering expertise and other in-kind support.

The Leonardo DiCaprio Foundation and National Geographic Society are partnering to fund and deploy TrailGuard AI. The system uses an advanced artificial intelligence (AI)-powered camera to detect humans in nature reserves, with 97 per cent accuracy, and instantly transmit images to park rangers’ facilities, enabling them to identify would-be poachers and intervene.

The solution leverages Inmarsat’s mobile satellite communications network to ensure the transmission of these images to rangers, overcoming the lack of reliable terrestrial connectivity in most remote nature reserves. TrailGuard AI utilises Inmarsat’s BGAN terminals to withstand exceptionally harsh environments.

Alastair Bovim, vice-president managed services Inmarsat Enterprise, noted, “When TrailGuard detects a poacher, rangers are notified immediately of their exact location and can initiate an effective response, no matter how remote the environment.”

The first deployment of the TrailGuard solution, at the Singita-Grumeti reserve in Tanzania in 2018, resulted in the arrest of around 30 poachers and the seizure of quantities of bushmeat. Having identified the 100 parks with the highest risk of poaching, by the end of 2020, RESOLVE aims to deploy the TrailGuard AI devices at ten ‘chokepoints’ - poacher intrusion hotspots - within each of these parks.

Commenting on Africa’s wildlife, Dr Eric Dinerstein, director of WildTech and the biodiversity and wildlife solutions programme at RESOLVE, said, “Wildlife poaching in Africa is at epidemic levels but despite the best efforts of dedicated rangers, the large park boundaries and rough terrain mean that they often only find out about poaching when it’s too late.”

“For the TrailGuard solution to work effectively we need rock-solid connectivity, which, in most remote African wildlife reserves, is only achievable with satellite. Inmarsat’s global, ultra-reliable satellite connectivity was the only solution that could help us overcome the connectivity challenges we faced and connect our smart sensors deployed out in the parks. This is expected to detect 80 per cent of poaching gangs operating in each area, which is by far the most effective strategy based on the resources and manpower available.”