Rhinos are becoming their own security systems with technology to scare away poachers.

There are rhinos in South Africa walking around with cameras attached to their horns.

They're also wearing heart rate monitors and GPS tags that track their location, too.


It's a rhino wandering around! GIF via Protect.

Why? This technology is being used to take power away from poachers.

The U.K.-based organization Protect has created what they call the Real-time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device (RAPID), mostly because poachers are the worst. The device is meant to help protect rhinos and other animals threatened by poaching.

If the data below is any indication, it's very needed.

Rhino poaching has gone up by 9,000% in the past 7 years.

"They're being wiped out for pseudoscientific cure-all medicines and as decorative status symbols based on their financial value," said Steve Piper, the director of Protect.

There are believed to only be four Northern white rhinos left in the wild. So sad. Photo via Wikimedia Commons.

"A kilo of rhino horn is worth around $65,000, 50% more than gold, yet it is basically little different from our own fingernails."

OH MY.

"[Rhinos] have come close to extinction in the past and were brought back from the brink by dedicated conservation efforts," he said. "But poaching is escalating so rapidly that we really could see these animals disappear within a decade."

That's what RAPID is designed to stop.

The heart rate monitor is placed on a rhino and used to alert rangers anytime the rhino's heart rate does anything odd. So if a rhino sees poachers and gets stressed, the heart rate climbs and an alarm goes off.

Then, a camera is used to see what situations the rhino is facing. The camera can determine whether it's actually a human jerk trying to kill the rhino or something natural, like a lion.

The camera gets implanted in the rhino's horn. You can see it in action here. Image by Protect, used with permission.

It does not pose a risk to the rhino's health, either, and it can be implanted painlessly, according to The Verge.

But what the camera does do is give rangers a solid chance to get to the site before a rhino might be killed. And in the unfortunate case that they're too late, it's nearly impossible for a poacher to get away with any items of value in such a short amount of time.

The RAPID technology might soon be able to protect other animals, too. According to The Verge, RAPID could also be adapted to other threatened species such as elephants, lions, or even whales. And a version for tigers is already in development!

When it comes down to it, putting cameras and heart monitors on threatened animals won't be the only thing that helps us save them.

"We all must work together to protect these animals from this very real extinction threat and the horrifically barbaric ways that horns, ivory, bones and furs are harvested," Piper said.

It'll take technology, anti-poaching teams on the front lines, and all of us educating ourselves and each other on the effect poaching has on some of our most beloved animals — some that we might not have much longer if we aren't careful.

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