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SOS Rhino : In the News : News From The Field : Modern technology helps the conservation of Prehistoric creatures

Modern technology helps the conservation of Prehistoric creatures


Modern technology helps the conservation of Prehistoric creatures

Annelisa Kilbourn, DVM
Field Scientist


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 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.


SOS RHINO BORNEO survey teams have been collecting data using a Visor® and Magellan ® GPS unit combination and the Cyber tracker® software.

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 efforts forward.



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