Virtual rangers help keep poachers away from South African reserve

Elephants drinking water, photo by Charl Durand on Unsplash
Elephants drinking water, photo by Charl Durand on Unsplash

Over 55,000 people have become virtual rangers since the project Wildlife Watch went live this month. Virtual rangers can watch theĀ animals that live in South Africa’s Balule Nature Reserve via camera phones placed in different areas of the reserve.

Located in Limpopo province and home to rhinos, lions, leopards, elephants and buffalos, Balule is part of Kruger National Park. Viewers of the Balule’s streaming service have already reported hearing gunshots and alerted rangers to trappedĀ animals needing rescue.

“We need more eyes; we need more people helping us,” said Leitah Mkhabela, a member of the park’s all-female anti-poaching unit known as the Black Mambas. “They can become a ranger while staying at home, and they can save a rhino every single day.”

The International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN) said anti-poaching patrols had been cut due to the impact of the pandemic. One in five rangers has been laid off globally since the pandemic began, a spokesperson for the World Wildlife Fund said.

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