Can Artificial Intelligence Help Pinch Poachers?
31 October 2019
A team comprising staff from Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve and Saving the Survivors have engaged in a joint operation to capture 12 seemingly stray dogs. The canines had been causing problems for some time on the beaches along Ponta do Ouro and the Cape of Santa Maria. They posed a threat to nesting loggerhead and leatherback turtles and hatchlings – some of the most endangered reptiles on the planet – being protected along this Mozambican coastline within the Lubombo Transfrontier Conservation Area. The dogs had also been harassing tourists and nipping at children from the local communities.
The dogs were darted and safely transported to a shelter where they were neutered while a call was put out in the community for any owners to come forward and claim them. Within 96 hours, 11 owners were reunited with their animals. Before handing their four-legged friends back to them, the dog owners were informed of the risks their pets pose to the biodiversity of the area: they were educated on the sensitive nature of turtle nests, how easily they can be destroyed and how important it is to ensure that as many turtle hatchlings reach the ocean as possible.
Peace Parks Foundation has been supporting the reserve’s turtle monitoring and protection for several years as these wild creatures play an important role in maintaining the health of our oceans and dunes. According to Oceana, sea turtles maintain productive coral reef ecosystems, as well as transport essential nutrients from oceans to beaches and coastal dunes. During turtle nesting season, which is usually between November and February, significant resources are invested in keeping the beaches safe for nesting females. Members of the community have also found employment through the turtle monitoring project and work as turtle monitors along the beaches.
The one dog that was not claimed by an owner has been taken in by the reserve rangers and will become part of the team working towards keeping Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve safe. Dog owners living in Ponta do Ouro Village have been informed that they need to keep their animals close to home, as well as keeping them on a lead when walking on the beach.
The reserve will perform more of these types of operations in partnership with the local community ensuring that their pets are safe, and the wildlife protected. Building a trust relationship with communities living in and around conservation areas is a key component of ensuring their sustainability.