Wireless Sensor Networks for Wildlife Conservation in Africa

While waiting for a connecting flight a few years ago, Vanderbilt Computer Science and Electrical and Computer Engineering Professor Akos Ledeczi stumbled upon a moment of inspiration which led him to one of his current projects: developing and testing a prototypes of a collar for elephants which uses wireless sensor network technology to apprehend poachers in Africa.

“The funny story is that I always wanted to help with the poaching situation, but it never really worked out in the sense that all the systems relied on putting sensors on static locations, like telephone poles,” Ledeczi said. “I was standing in the Chicago airport waiting for a connecting flight and I saw a wildlife NGO poster on the wall with a big elephant and that’s when I thought, we don’t need to statically deploy these sensors, we can just put them on the animals themselves.”

The project, known as the Wireless anti Poaching collar for Elephants and Rhinos (WIPER), works with a company called Savannah Tracking based in Kenya which makes collars for animals threatened by poachers, from elephants to condors. Savannah Tracking devices record the location and movement of the animals; Ledeczi, along with George Wittemyer, Peter Volgyesi, Miklos Maroti, and Gyorgy Kalmar, is working to add acoustic shock detection capability originally used for military purposes with the U.S. Department of Defense. The addition of precise shot detection to the collars will allow law enforcement to determine the location of poachers. 

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