In recent years we have seen a massive increase in the illegal wildlife trade. In the past 40 years 95% of the world’s rhinos were killed. More than 100,000 African elephants have been poached in the last three years and 97% of the world’s wild tigers have been lost in the last 100 years.*

The Zoological Society of London (ZSL), a near 200-year old charity dedicated to conservation science, is trying to find solutions to this complex issue. An objective of ZSL’s work is to protect endangered species from threats such as poaching, illegal extraction and habitat loss. Monitoring and protecting species can be challenging as ZSL often works in very vast, remote and difficult to reach locations.

To overcome this challenge, ZSL – using its lead technology developer Cambridge Consultants – has developed a system that can capture data remotely and transmit it in near real time from any part of the world. It is called Instant Detect and is enabled by the global Iridium® network. Through this technology data can be gathered on a very large scale to complement scientists’ manual data collection to monitor rare species and help anti-poaching.

Photo credit: Olivia Needham

The system concept was developed by ZSL, architected and designed by Cambridge Consultants, and involved Seven Technologies Group, Wireless Innovation Ltd, and Iridium. It is used for both wildlife monitoring and protecting animals from poaching. It includes a network of camera traps that send images; and magnetic and ground sensors detecting human presence, that transmit alerts to a specific central satellite node via radio waves. When images and alerts are received by the central satellite node, a computer sends the data via the Iridium satellite network to rangers or approved users located anywhere in the world.

The Instant Detect system was successfully deployed in Antarctica to monitor Adelie penguins and help tackle rhino poaching in Kenya’s Tsavo West National Park.

Photo credit: Olivia Needham

Olivia Needham, ZSL’s Instant Detect project manager, says: “The reliability of signal and transmission from the Iridium system has been astonishing. The whole Instant Detect project was based on the idea that we can transmit data from anywhere and without Iridium that would not have been possible.”

ZSL is dedicated to tackling the illegal wildlife trade and the Instant Detect system, enabled by the global Iridium network, can be an important part of that effort.

*Numbers are taken from a presentation of the Zoological Society of London at the Iridium Partner Conference in Feb 2015