BY KATIE - MYGREENPOD, 12 Nov '17

First-of-its-kind technology challenge could help put an end to fight human-wildlife conflict

World Wildlife Fund (WWF) and WILDLABS have awarded over $65,000 to the winners of the organisations’ first international Human Wildlife Conflict Tech Challenge.

British conservation technologist Alasdair Davies and the Dutch team of Laurens de Groot and Tim van Dam will receive nearly $35,000 to develop and field test their solution for human-wildlife conflict.

Minimsing conflict

WWF and WILDLABS set the challenge in July 2017, calling on technology developers, engineers, designers and Nature lovers to find a new way to help minimise conflict between people and wildlife.

As people continue to move into natural habitats, conflict can occur over the damage caused by wildlife to livestock and property. People can also be injured or killed in attacks by wild animals.

In India alone, 1,200 people lost their lives in clashes with wildlife between 2014 and 2017. In return, hundreds of animals have been killed in defence or retaliation.

The two winning applications were chosen from 47 innovative ideas from 14 countries to help solve the increasing confrontations between people and wildlife such as tigers, polar bears and elephants. An international panel of human wildlife conflict and technology experts assessed the feasibility of the proposals.

Detection of carnivores

Alasdair Davies, of the Arribada Initiative in the UK, created an innovative warning system aimed at the early detection of carnivores, like polar bears and tigers.

It uses a clever combination of traditional infrared sensors and thermic sensors capable of discriminating between species, allowing it to alert people to the presence of a specific animal, but not when a human or a dog passes.

‘This affordable tool uses infrared sensors to detect the unique body heat and shape of polar bears and tigers, which then sends an alert to locals of the approaching carnivore. By offering more precise discrimination between species detected by the system, the frequency of false alarms will be reduced and enhance the sense of security of people living near tigers, polar bears or other carnivores.’

STEPHANIE O’DONNELL
Community manager, WILDLABS

Effective electric fences

Laurens de Groot and Tim van Dam, of ShadowView Foundation in the Netherlands, aim to reduce conflicts between people and elephants with a proposal based on the wireless LoRaWAN™ (Long Range Wide Area Network) telecommunication technology.

A variety of sensors can be linked to this tech and used to detect animals and power leaks in electric fences that are currently used to keep out elephants.

Alarms linked to the sensors alert people when a fence has been damaged or broken by elephants. They sett off buzzer flashlights or send SMS messages to villagers.

Testing in India

Both proposals will be tested in India in 2018. The developers are being encouraged to collaborate because both proposals are complementary and could be more effective if used together.

‘For the Asian elephant case, testing the winning innovations in Assam, India provides an exciting opportunity to see how the two tools might work together for maximum impact and for conflict situations related to other species as well. By combining these ideas, we can develop a comprehensive solution to benefit more species and communities.’

NILANGA JAYASINGHE
Senior programme officer for Asian Species, WWF

Answers from tech

The number of deadly encounters between people and wild animals such as tigers, elephants and polar bears is growing. This is due in large part to shrinking natural habitat for these species as human settlements and activities expand.

As a result, the lives of people as well as wildlife are being lost, while great damage is being done to property, livestock and crops.

A number of measures and tools exist to prevent human-wildlife conflict, including electric fences, deep trenches, chilli bombs, bees, fire crackers and flashlights. However, they are not effective or timely enough to prevent interactions between humans and wildlife from escalating into full conflict.

By putting the problem to engineers, designers and Nature lovers from around the world, WILDLABS and WWF have harnessed the combined skills, knowledge and ingenuity of the global community to help solve this pressing conservation problem.