Can Artificial Intelligence Help Pinch Poachers?
31 October 2019
A Mozambican family living in the Massuane, a community in the buffer zone of Maputo Special Reserve, recently had the fright of their lives when they came across an enormous 3.5 meters long python inside their property. The news of the ‘giant snake’ quickly spread throughout the local community and dozens of neighbours and onlookers came to look at and photograph the animal from a distance.
Despite the fact that the snake had consumed one of their kid goats, the family – who rely on livestock farming for their livelihood – decided to not kill the snake. Instead they requested assistance from the Maputo Special Reserve rangers who arrived at the scene to catch the snake.
Before removing it from the premises, Dolf Botha, an operative of the Dyck Advisory Group that provides technical anti-poaching support to the Reserve, held the snake and encouraged community members to come closer and inspect it. He explained that the snake, although scary in appearance and size, was not poisonous, but that they it will eat small animals and could be dangerous to small children and have been known to kill many adults even though he had never heard an account of humans eaten by snakes.
He praised the farmer and community for calling on the rangers to assist with the animal instead of harming it, and encouraged them to continue with this approach whenever they encounter a wild animal in their areas.
“Queen” Helena Tembe, the Massuane community leader said: “The community was very surprised by the size of the animal. It is common to see smaller snakes in the area that eat chickens and small animals. We didn’t know before that we could ask the reserve authority to help, and previously we would just have chased away, or sometimes killed the animals. It is good to know that we have another way of solving this problem.”
The python was taken a measurable distance away from the community’s residences and released inside the Maputo Special Reserve conservation area near Lake Xinguti.
Pythons are most active at night. They are not poisonous, although their bite is painful and can cause infection. They prefer to avoid contact with humans and detect their prey through the perception of movement and heat, surprising their victims in silence. These animals feed on small antelopes, mammals such as rats, birds and lizards even, and kill by constriction, wrapping themselves around the body of the prey and suffocating it. Its mouth is very dilatable and has serrated teeth in the jaws. Their digestion of the consumed prey is slow, usually lasting anything from seven days to a few weeks, during which it stays dormant and secluded.
The core purpose of Peace Parks Foundation is to enable a balance – a harmony if you will – between conservation and consumption, between man and nature. Conflict between people and animals is one of the main threats to sustainable conservation efforts. This ethos is mirrored in Maputo Special Reserve, where the ANAC (National Administration for Conservation Areas) and Peace Parks Foundation, in association with various other partners, work closely with communities through educational programmes and other human-wildlife conflict mitigation tools that protect both communities and wildlife.