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Sensing wildlife activity in the battle against poaching


By recognising the movements of animals in the wild, using a sensor attached to their body, it may well be possible to detect if poachers are nearby. These ‘animal activity recognition’ sensors can also help in biodiversity research or cattle management. Researcher Jacob Kamminga of the University of Twente developed a motion sensor with built-in intelligence for recognising motion patterns of a wide range of animals. The sensor consumes very little energy and it is prepared for harsh conditions.

To this day, many elephants are killed for their ivory and rhinos for the alleged healing properties of their horn. Although stricter rules cause some improvement, far too many wild animals are victims of poaching. If you would be able to recognise the movements of animals, you might be able to detect their response to the presence of humans. Satellite, GPS data and remote sensing already proof to be valuable in this. Data coming from sensors that are directly connected to the animal’s body may have substantial added value.

Kamminga did research on the type of measurements needed for this type of recognition, as well as the built-in intelligence. A remarkable conclusion of his work is that in most cases, a single sensor is sufficient, an accelerometer. “I added a gyroscope as well, that measures rotation. This can make it some more accurate, but this comes with a prize. It consumes 100 times more energy than the accelerometer. In most cases, just the accelerometer is accurate enough”, says Kamminga. Replacing a battery every once in a while, is not an option, so energy efficiency is one of the top priorities. MORE