File Picture: Armand Hough
A global technology company, ShotSpotter Inc announced on Tuesday that it has used gunshot detection systems successfully in the Kruger National Park to help combat rhino poaching.

The announcement was made in the run-up to World Rhino Day on Sunday.

In 2014, ShotSpotter began a pilot of its gunshot detection technology in the intensified protection zone of Kruger National Park, home to 60% 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 a kill. 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.

“ShotSpotter changes the game by giving our rangers the exact location of the shot within seconds,” said Glenn Phillips, Kruger National Park’s 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 co-ordinates of the gunfire. The combination of gunshot detection and airborne thermal surveillance will enable rangers to better track and intercept poachers.

ShotSpotter has had to adapt its sensors and software for use in the sprawling expanse of the 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 first-hand 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 in the park has been made possible by international donors through the Care For Wild rhino sanctuary, to ensure the survival of rhinos for future generations.