Can Artificial Intelligence Help Pinch Poachers?
31 October 2019
Two decades ago Peace Parks Foundation was established with a single mission: to reconnect large landscapes which had been fragmented by man-made borders. The why is simple: we do this in the hope of creating a future where man lives in harmony with nature.
All throughout history the natural environment has had to take a step back for man’s ambitions. Our species has grown in number to the point where it is now an accepted fact that our planet can no longer sustain us if we do not change our ways. We need to save energy. We need to re-use, recycle and build in a way that does no harm to the natural environment.
Weather patterns are changing. More than ever before we face flooding, wildfires and earthquakes, through which hundreds of thousands of people are displaced.
There is a definite imbalance. Ecosystems are not functioning as they should and people and animals are suffering as a result.
The importance of biodiversity cannot be overstated. Each organism, whether it walks on two legs or four, flies or crawls, produces oxygen or breathes it, plays a critical role in keeping us alive. If you remove one, the balance is disrupted. In many countries, nearly all wildlife has been eradicated. Starving nations suffering the consequences of war, famine or severe drought turn to the only available option: natural resources which are quickly exhausted. The result is absolute silence in barren landscapes.
When large mammals are no longer present, thick vegetation makes it impossible for smaller grazers to gain access to feeding areas. The absence of grazers (and their byproducts) causes insect numbers to dwindle, which leaves hungry birds forced to migrate. Tourism, a major source of income for communities within and around protected areas, then comes to a complete halt as an African wilderness devoid of wildlife is unnatural and disturbing.
The longstanding collaboration between Peace Parks and southern African countries has paved the way for partnerships aimed at restoring such wilderness areas.
Secure commitment and capacitate the men and women on the ground.
Enhance conservation management and protection, and reintroduce animal species to bring equilibrium to an unsettled ecosystem.
Work with local communities – finding new ways to sustainably utilise natural resources and establish alternative livelihood options that will see them find their way out of extreme poverty.
Forge business linkages that stimulate the development of tourism – ultimately securing financial self-sufficience and long-term survival for the conservation areas.
It is as simple, and as complicated, as that.
In the areas in which Peace Parks operates, parks and reserves are in various stages of development. Within the Kavango Zambezi Transfrontier Conservation Area, for example, the Simalaha Community Conservancy, established in 2012, is a conservation success story. With support from the Swedish Postcode Lottery, a wildlife sanctuary was established within the conservancy and rewilding efforts saw the reintroduction of eight different species totalling more than 1 600 animals. The community views the wildlife with a keen sense of pride, celebrating the arrival of each new animal and its associated economies.
Mozambique’s Ponto do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve, situated within the Lumbomo Transfrontier Conservation and Resource Area, recently, for the first time in many years, welcomed Dugongs back in its waters. Dugongs, much like elephant, only move into areas where they feel safe, so their return was a much-celebrated event for conservationists there. Ponta do Ouro Partial Marine Reserve is also an important site for critically endangered sea turtles that nest along the coast. Since its establishment nearly a decade ago, turtle numbers have increased and the communities are closely involved in ensuring their safe passage across the beaches to lay their eggs or make their way to the ocean for the very first time. Sea turtles, like all creatures, play their part in keeping our oceans balanced. According to Oceana, sea turtles have played vital roles in maintaining the health of the world’s oceans for more than 100 million years. These roles range from maintaining productive coral reef ecosystems to transporting essential nutrients from the oceans to beaches and coastal dunes.
In Zinave National Park, a vital component of the wildlife corridors being re-established within the Great Limpopo Transfrontier Conservation Area, all logging activities have been completely halted thanks to the dedicated work of park rangers. Wood confiscated from these illegal operations has been put to good use. Zinave’s stolen forests have been repurposed to serve as desks at local community schools. Rangers regularly interact with children here to teach them about the importance of protecting their natural resources – fauna and flora are equally important and must be protected so that future generations can thrive.
Our work is to ensure that successes like these continue to grow, as the wild spaces of Africa rapidly heal, the people thrive, and the continent rebuilds itself as the ultimate ecotourism destination. Working with partners across the board, from governments to non-profit organsations, as well as the humbling support from our donors have enabled us to continue rebuilding, rewildling and rebalancing ecosystems. We believe our mission to be critically important and we remain committed to restoring tomorrow. If you share our vision for a brighter tomorrow, support us, and we will make sure your contributions go directly to where it is needed most.