To win the fight for wildlife, the world must come together as one force for good. Unfortunately, poaching surged during the pandemic as illegal hunters took advantage of the sudden fall in tourism.
Wildlife Watch, an ambitious new pilot, used technology to help fight back. Anybody, anywhere in the world could become a virtual ranger and watch over wildlife, live.
Samsung joined forces with African technology pioneer Africam to reimagine one of its latest mobile phones. The pro-grade cameras in Samsung Galaxy S20 Fan Edition (FE) handsets were used to create a ‘surveillance system’. Live footage filmed by the handsets was streamed 24/7 from the Balule Nature Reserve in South Africa, part of the Greater Kruger National Park.
The world was invited to ‘Take the Watch’ and help to protect endangered animals by monitoring them in their natural habitat and enjoying spectacular live sightings from home – which included lions, elephants, giraffes, a mischievous hyena who tried to eat one of the cameras and a whole herd of water buffalo.
During the two months the pilot was live, over 190,000 people in nearly 200 countries became virtual rangers, and spent over 120 hours taking the watch.
South Korean born, Berlin-based DJ, producer, fashion designer and Giraffe loving, Peggy Gou fronted the initiative to champion and encourage people to take part and raise awareness.
Wildlife Watch supported the work of The Black Mamba Anti-Poaching Unit; the world’s first all-female troop that use non-violent methods to prevent poaching. Each day they look out for poachers, wire-snares, and break-ins along the fence line while patrolling up to 500 square km of the Balule Nature Reserve.
Four Samsung Galaxy S20 FE handsets were installed as cameras in the bush, including one attached to a camouflaged jeep, which is still being used by the rangers for surveillance patrols. When watching the live stream, virtual rangers were able to alert the Black Mambas if they saw animals in danger or signs of poaching. In one instance, reports made by people around the world led to the rescue of an impala that had fallen down a well.
Samsung’s Galaxy upcycling programme aims to solve social needs, lengthen product lifecycles, and reduce waste by reimagining phones into new roles. Repurposing existing products to serve a critical new function is a great way to avoid needing to create new products. As well as capturing the live stream, the handsets provided the rangers with valuable support by being redeployed as CCTV cameras on perimeter fences, and they continue to support the rangers in their daily tasks.
“The arms race is not with weaponry, the arms race in anti-poaching is actually with technology,” said Black Mamba Founder, Craig Spencer. “A camera never sleeps. So you can see every time of the day or night.”
The bigger pixels, enhanced camera AI and 30x Space Zoom including 3x Optical Zoom in the handsets have also improved the quality of the photos the Black Mambas can take whilst on patrol. From a distance and even in low light and the unreliable conditions of the bush they can send clear and detailed images back to their base as evidence for investigations into poaching activity.
Black Mamba ranger Leitah Mkhabela said, “The system that we were using was too slow to receive information. There is a big change as we receive information in time and it is easy for us to react quickly if we need to follow up on suspicious evidence.”
Committed to using technology as an instrument for good, Wildlife Watch supports the 2030 Agenda for Sustainable Development, a plan adopted by 193 United Nations Members, by addressing Sustainable Development Goal 15 – Life on Land - of the United Nations’ Sustainable Development Goals.
Samsung Galaxy S20 FE handsets were used to film 24/7 livestream footage of endangered animals in the Balule Nature Reserve in South Africa.