Sometimes our desire to find the technological solution(s) to our problems exceeds the reality of what technology really can do. Let’s go back to Africa where I spent some time earlier this month. Park rangers in Kenya, as well as other African countries, play a critical role in preventing poaching (killing for sport or profit) of endangered species living on these governmental preserves. Sometimes, however, investments in high-tech solutions get in the way of needed financial support for the manpower needed to patrol and protect the endangered animals living on these lands.
Despite the critical role that rangers play in the poaching crisis, conservation organizations tend to overlook the need for everyday resources. Donors outside of Africa want to see sexy, high-tech solutions like drones and ground sensors and not hear about the need for warm clothing, boots and better food for rangers. Large nongovernmental groups spend huge amounts, yet there are rangers needing socks. “Our rangers were herders, but now they’re effectively soldiers,” said David Powrie, a preserve game warden. And the enemy are the poachers who have been known to attack and kill the rangers.
When rangers are well taken care of and receive appropriate training, poaching rates tend to drop. Technology can certainly help, but it is still only a tool that has to be used wisely in the hands of well-trained and financially supported rangers.