A rhino that has been darted is checked by veterinarians, dehorned and relocated. Kruger National Park (KNP) said it would implement selective dehorning of rhino cows in certain areas in the southern part to minimise the impact of rhino poaching on the population numbers. FILE PHOTO: Karen Sandison/African News Agency (ANA)

CAPE TOWN -  A global technology company, ShotSpotter Inc. announced on Tuesday that it has deployed gunshot detection systems in the Kruger National Park in South Africa to help combat rhino poaching.

The announcement was made ahead of World Rhino Day on September 22.

In 2014, ShotSpotter began a pilot of its gunshot detection technology in the intensified protection zone of Kruger National Park, home to 60 percent of the last remaining rhinos, the company said.

Previously, given the vast expanse of the park, most poaching incidents went undetected with carcasses found days or weeks after the fact. However, with the introduction of ShotSpotter Labs to detect, locate and alert park rangers to gunfire incidents in under 60 seconds, there have been multiple poacher apprehensions within the covered area since its debut.  

“ShotSpotter changes the game by giving our rangers the exact location of the shot within seconds,” said Glenn Phillips, Kruger National Park managing executive.

“The resulting speed and accuracy of the response not only increases our chances of making contact and effecting an arrest but over time we hope will send a powerful message to poachers to stay away.”

In addition to significantly expanding coverage area in the park, ShotSpotter Labs plans to integrate with airborne thermal surveillance technologies for rapid deployment to the precise latitudinal and longitudinal coordinates of the gunfire. The combination of gunshot detection and airborne thermal surveillance will allow rangers to track and intercept poachers.

ShotSpotter has had to adapt its sensors and software for use in the sprawling expanse of Kruger National Park with no electricity available to power sensors.  

These types of system innovations required for anti-poaching are already being applied in other applications such as solar-powered sensors in freeway deployments with limited access to electricity. 

“I’ve seen the devastation to the rhino population firsthand in South Africa and it’s meaningful that ShotSpotter can make a difference to help these amazing animals survive for future generations," said Ralph Clark, President and chief executive of ShotSpotter. 

“This kind of engagement is not only the right thing to do, but it’s also an opportunity for us to develop innovative technology that can ultimately be incorporated back into core products across our business.” 

The expanded coverage of the park has been made possible by generous international donors via the Care For Wild rhino sanctuary, established in 2001 to ensure the survival of rhinos for future generations.

- African News Agency (ANA)