Thursday, 27 June 2019 11:31

Inmarsat joins with WWF in endangered gorilla project

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Mountain gorillas Nyiguru, Kakuto at play Mountain gorillas Nyiguru, Kakuto at play

Satellite communications company Inmarsat has joined forces with the World Wildlife Fund and UNESCO’s International Gorilla Conservation Programme in a project aimed at offering a lifeline to endangered mountain gorillas in sub-Saharan Africa.

The organisations have developed a mobile-based technology solution that leverages Inmarsat’s connectivity to streamline data-collection of incidences of human-wildlife conflict and enable local communities to use it to inform conflict mitigation work and anti-poaching efforts.

The trial of an “innovative technology solution” to record incidents of human-wildlife conflict, with a view to allowing local communities, mountain gorillas and other wildlife to better coexist, has been launched by the Uganda Wildlife Authority in the Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

Although the gorilla sub-species was recently re-classified as endangered, as opposed to critically so, there are still only about 1000 mountain gorillas surviving in protected parks, in the wild, with around 600 in the Virunga mountains, and around 400 in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park.

In a statement announcing its involvement in the trial, Inmarsat says that rural human populations in this part of the world are growing rapidly, at almost 3% per year, putting pressure on space and resources.

“The need to protect both the mountain gorilla and the livelihoods of local communities who rely on the land, presents many challenges, which can result in conflict; wildlife attacks on people, crops destroyed and disease transmission from humans to gorillas.

“To respond to these challenges, the International Gorilla Conservation Programme, a coalition of WWF and Fauna & Flora International, has teamed up with Inmarsat to pilot the use of a mobile-based technology solution that streamlines data-collection of incidences of human-wildlife conflict and provides the opportunity for real-time data transmission.”

Inmarsat says that to date, monitoring of human-wildlife conflict, which is critical to managing it, has been a “laborious paper and pen exercise, which wasn’t well suited to the needs of the HuGo (Human Gorilla Conflict Resolution) community groups who undertake the monitoring”.

“This meant the consistency of data and the ability of this information to influence management decisions was limited. Simplifying and standardising information gathering using the solution enables community volunteers to use straightforward visual tools and their local language to record any incidents.

“Connectivity in remote mountain gorilla habitats can be challenging but, by using Inmarsat’s mobile satellite devices, the data collected by HuGo groups can be transmitted via satellite in near real time.

“Key information is sent to UWA rangers and other HuGo members so that they can provide additional support if needed. The data is then stored on a central UWA server, where it is used to inform human-wildlife conflict mitigation work. Going forward, part of the pilot will be to enable automatic transfer of the data to the UWA server via satellite networks.

“The technology is being trialled by local members of the HuGo (Human Gorilla Conflict Resolution) programme in Bwindi Impenetrable National Park in Uganda, and the organisations hope that the technology will be used to support conservation projects throughout the area.”

IGCP director Anna Behm Masozera said: “Mountain gorilla conservation has had many successes in recent years and the pilot of the hand-held devices generously provided by Inmarsat has the potential to drive that forward by transforming data collection. This is all about equipping and empowering local communities to be part of the solution and to make them feel valued by training them in, and supplying them with the latest technology.”

“Mountain gorilla habitats are surrounded by some of Africa’s highest densities of rural populations,” said WWF regional manager Africa, Cath Lawson.

“Finding solutions that enable the coexistence of wildlife and local communities is the only way that conservation efforts can succeed. The technology solutions we’re piloting in this project have the potential to transform data collection processes which enable better informed management decisions for both people and mountain gorillas.”

“In our 40th anniversary year, this project reflects back to our founding principles of supporting safety and sustainability in the world,” Inmarsat Enterprise president Paul Gudonis said.

“We are delighted to be working with the WWF, IGCP and Ugandan Government and community groups to decrease human-gorilla conflict in the region. We are excited at the potential of using our BGAN satellite connectivity and our IoT expertise to deliver innovative new solutions to conservation projects throughout sub-Saharan Africa.”

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Peter Dinham

Peter Dinham is a co-founder of iTWire and a 35-year veteran journalist and corporate communications consultant. He has worked as a journalist in all forms of media – newspapers/magazines, radio, television, press agency and now, online – including with the Canberra Times, The Examiner (Tasmania), the ABC and AAP-Reuters. As a freelance journalist he also had articles published in Australian and overseas magazines. He worked in the corporate communications/public relations sector, in-house with an airline, and as a senior executive in Australia of the world’s largest communications consultancy, Burson-Marsteller. He also ran his own communications consultancy and was a co-founder in Australia of the global photographic agency, the Image Bank (now Getty Images).

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