Kenya has sought the help of Chinese technology for the conservation and monitoring of wildlife through the deployment of both artificial intelligence and Internet of Things (IoT) technologies and will specifically dwell on both elephant and rhino conservation.
Alibaba Cloud, the cloud-computing arm of Alibaba Group, and the Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife have agreed to explore a strategic collaboration to deploy Alibaba Cloud’s technology to support the Kenya Wildlife Protection Project.
The first project under the collaboration in discussion will take place at a designated area inside the Tsavo East and West National Parks, one of Kenya’s oldest and largest protected area with over 13,500 square kilometres. Leveraging Alibaba Cloud’s powerful computing, artificial intelligence (AI) and Internet of Things (IoT) capabilities; the project will work to protect the park’s endangered elephants, rhinoceroses and lions.
“It is our great honour to support the Kenyan government and make a contribution to the country’s wildlife conservation efforts. The collaboration underscores the positive impact that technology, including cloud computing, AI and IoT, can have on the planet and on wildlife protection,” said Simon Hu, Senior Vice President of Alibaba Group and President of Alibaba Cloud.
“We look forward to joining our global partners and stakeholders in improving the protection of Kenya’s wildlife and vital ecosystems through technology innovation.”
“Wildlife is the main attraction to tourists visiting Kenya. Among the key species attractions are the elephant, rhino, giraffe, and buffalo among others. Currently, Kenya has a population of about 35,000 elephants, and about 42% of this population (12,843) elephants occur in the Tsavo ecosystem. In addition, the ecosystem also provide critical habitat for rhinos, giraffe and lions among other species. It is therefore important for the Government of Kenya to use technology to protect wildlife and their habitats in the Tsavo ecosystem. As a country, we are indeed happy to embrace such technology from Alibaba Group to enhance our wildlife security and protection,” said Dr. Margaret Mwakima, Principal Secretary from the Kenya’s Ministry of Tourism and Wildlife.
Both parties will explore using a wide range of features connected to Alibaba Cloud’s IoT platform for the project. Animal tracking sensors, infra-red trap cameras, smart weather stations, ranger devices and wide-area drones are among the technologies that will be considered to be installed to collect real-time data of the movements and general health of the animals. The platform would then analyse the data and predict their behaviour and travel routes, alerting the command center about potential risks or dangers, such as illegal poaching and human-animal conflicts. This could help direct the deployment of ground teams to act more quickly and better manage the park.
In addition, both parties will explore ways to combine the local operator’s GSM telecommunications network with government-licensed satellites to build the infrastructure, which could make data transmission more intelligent and less costly, achieving near real-time updates. Advanced hardware would be used as well, such as light-weight solar-powered trackers that are easier for the animals to wear.
The project in Tsavo is only the first step in exploring the partnership between Alibaba Cloud and the Kenyan Government. The parties have agreed to explore the potential to expand the protection project to more parks across Kenya, and, ultimately, build a nationwide, digital ecological protection platform. Both parties will also explore cooperation in staff training and the development of educational-tourism opportunities in Kenya. This latest initiative follows the visit of Jack Ma to Africa earlier in 2018, as well as the company’s support of a fund to support entrepreneurs in the region.
This is not the first time Kenya is employing computing in conservation. Earlier in the year, global technology giants, Dimension Data and Cisco, will expand their Internet of Things themed anti-poaching Connected Conservation programme into Zambia, Kenya, and Mozambique to continue protecting rhino, as well as help fight the war on the startling numbers of African savanna elephant being poached.