Modern technology helps the conservation of Prehistoric creatures
Annelisa Kilbourn, DVM
SOS RHINO BORNEO
Wildlife conservation in large forest areas in the world is challenged
by the remoteness of the sites, dense vegetation, enough qualified
human resources, and in the case of the Sumatran rhinoceros (Dicerorhinus
sumatrensis harisoni), the scarcity of the endangered species. These
factors combined compound the problem of identifying the remaining
sites where this charismatic, but elusive, mega vertebrate should
be protected or is in need of additional active intervention. The
collection of information to evaluate distribution and demographics
of these animals is key when establishing wildlife management programs
for their conservation. To appropriately distribute resources and
manpower and to identify critical habitat sites for the long-term
protection of the Sumatran rhinoceros, basic information on their
ecology and distribution is required.
SOS RHINO BORNEO
SOS RHINO is reinforcing the Sabah Wildlife Departments' capacity
to conserve this species in the wild by the transfer of appropriate
technology. Working with the Wildlife Department and the local World
Wildlife Fund, wildlife field research assistants, trackers and
students are briefed on the critical situation these animals are
in and their responsibilities to the conservation efforts.
SOS RHINO's Borneo Program employs local field staff and veterinarians.
We build job proficiency with continuing education opportunities
and instruction on appropriate technology. A system of data collection,
which will be accomplished by permanent surveillance teams, is a
critical part of this program.
Seminar on the plight of the Sumatran rhino &
electronic data collection.
SOS RHINO's initial field research is focused on determining the
demographics of the population of Sumatran rhino. At least two base
camps are established to facilitate survey works. Staff and volunteers
hike from base camps into the forest to gather information on spore
signs (tracks, eaten leaves), habitat utilization, human and animal
contact. Additionally, they look for poaching activity and any other
potential serious problems in the wildlife reserve.
TOOLS OF THE TRADE
SOS RHINO BORNEO survey teams have been collecting data using a
Visor® and Magellan ® GPS unit combination and the Cyber
In October 2001, Handspring Inc. granted SOS RHINO's Borneo
team 25 hand-held Visor units for their field research. Magellan
GPS companions are used with the visors, along with CyberTracker
Software which has been customized to incorporate all pertinent
information such as terrain covered and observations made by the
patrol and research teams. This new integration of hardware and
software allows expedient data management. The icon-based software
translates easily between languages expediting training and understanding.
These units have become an invaluable tool that will greatly improve
the surveillance of the teams. This will help clarify the complicated
problems facing these animals and their habitat.
More work is needed to evaluate the habitat of these amazing creatures
so that we can protect them into the future. Multiple organizations,
both government wildlife departments and other collaborating NGO
are interested in pursuing this technology further by addressing
additional conservation issues. The rhinoceros in particular have
a long battle a head, but these tools have pushed the conservation