The Institute - June 2019 - 12

member profile

IEEE Member Eric Becker
Protects Rhinos From Poachers
rhinoceroses in Africa has helped
to decimate their population,
from about 65,000 in the 1970s to just
5,400 today. Black rhinos are one of
the world's most endangered species,
according to the World Wildlife
Fund (WWF). The animals are
being killed for their horns,
which can fetch thousands of
U.S. dollars per kilogram on
the black market. The African
Wildlife Foundation estimates
that the global wildlife poaching
trade generates up to $23 billion
annually in illicit revenue.
Most of Africa's remaining
rhinos are found in
four countries: Kenya,
Namibia, South Africa, and
Zimbabwe. Housed in wildlife
preserves and national
parks, they are protected
by armed rangers. There
were 769 rhino poaching
incidents in South Africa last
year, the National Department of
Environmental Affairs says.
To help combat poaching and
improve ranger safety, the WWF and
sensor maker FLIR Systems teamed
up in January to launch the Kifaru
Rising project. In Swahili, the word
for rhino is kifaru. WWF conservation engineer Eric Becker, an IEEE
member, is the project's lead engineer. Kifaru Rising aims to eliminate
rhino poaching in Kenya by 2021
with the help of thermal-imaging
security cameras.

The project calls for installing FLIR
cameras at 10 parks and game


JUN 2019



reserves in Kenya to secure the
park's perimeters and help rangers identify illegal intrusions.
"We can't save rhinos if we don't stop
poaching," Carter Roberts, president
and CEO of the WWF, said in a news

spectrum emission," he says. "We can
deploy a sensor that can look out into
the environment and really pick up on
the living things that emit heat that the
ranger can't see.
"The reason that thermal imaging
IEEE Member Eric
Becker, conservation
engineer at the
World Wildlife Fund,
holds his thermal
imaging FLIR
camera, which helps
wildlife preserves
protect black rhinos
in Africa from

release about the collaboration. "New
technologies help change the game.
They give rangers a leg up in deterring
criminals and protecting themselves
on the front lines of this war."
Thermal imaging can detect radiation
in the electromagnetic spectrum and
produce images of that radiation. Using
handheld thermal-imaging cameras
and ones mounted on patrol vehicles,
and checking ones on poles located
around the parks' perimeters, rangers
can scan an area up to 3 kilometers
away and see the heat generated by a
human or other animal, Becker says.
"What most people don't realize
is that everything glows around you
and the frequency of that glow is the

is good for monitoring the parks is
that it provides that contrast. Those
infrared-detector elements create a
detailed temperature pattern, called
a thermogram, which is displayed on
the camera."
The fixed-mounted thermal
cameras that workers plan to place
around the 10 parks' borders are
capable of generating real-time video
that can be streamed to control rooms
so armed rangers can be deployed
when an intruder is detected.
FLIR infrared cameras that the WWF
installed in other parks are reducing
poaching, Becker reports. One is a
reserve that borders Nakuru, Kenya. It
has a road that provided poachers with




The Institute - June 2019

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