Scientists launch satelite technology to fight human wildlife conflict

A satellite technology that protects the country's reserves and protected lands from poaching and addresses human wildlife conflict has been launched coming at a time when the cases of poaching in the country has been at an unprecedented high. The technology,The Africa Soil Information Service (AfSIS)'s, developed by scientists from World Agroforestry Center (ICRAF)hopes to reduce the potential of human-wildlife conflicts by informing livestock herders and crop farmers where to graze and plant new crops that will increase their productivity, reduce land degradation, and reduce conflicts with wild animals.

According to experts, research on conservation, soil and land status mapping which has been embraced by agricultural scientists and conservationists could help save Africa's rapidly declining wildlife population. Tor-Gunnar Vagen, a senior scientist at ICRAF and principal investigator for the soil health mapping component of AfSIS in an earlier interview said a case study of Kenya's Laikipia district, one of the country's most diverse wildlife regions, had shed light on the interaction between soil and land health and human-wildlife conflict.

He said satellite images of the region show a high prevalence of soil erosion on land in Laikipia where the conflict has been rife.
By cross mapping this with other datasets that represent progressions in patterns of agriculture amongst pastoralists, shifting paths of migration taken by wildlife, river direction flow changes and land cover change, conservationists can map out areas where the probability of conflict is high.

This, Vagen said, means that communities can be more effectively educated on appropriate livestock numbers, settlement rotation and the management of shared grazing pastures. "With proper management of livestock and agriculture, there is no reason that humans and animals cannot co-exist. We have the tools through these methods to make informed decisions that can help reduce conflicts between humans and wildlife," he said.

There has been a systemic poaching trend in Kenya that has seen over 20 elephants and undocumented number of rhinos shot dead by poachers this year. A week after the shooting of the elephants, 638 pieces of ivory worth over Sh85million were impounded at the Port of Mombasa while illegally on transit to Indonesia which forms one of the largest market for Kenya's ivory.

Conservationists said rising demand for ivory and rhino horn in Asia has caused a poaching crisis in recent years across Kenya in particular and Africa as a whole with over 1,000 rhinos having been killed on the continent in the last 18 months. This, coupled with the human wildlife conflict that has exacerbated in recent times has become a cause for concern. The Kenyan government has been spending over Sh71 million annually in compensation to victims of human wildlife conflict and the satelite technology couldnt have come at a better time.