Having introduced LoRaWAN into conservation about 8 years ago in Mkomazi National Park, Smart Parks has slowly shifted its focus. First we had to learn how to plan, prepare, deploy, use and maintain a LoRaWAN network infrastructure in remote areas like Akagera National Park or the Serengeti National Park. Now, more and more protected areas have such working infrastructures, we focus our passion and resources on enabling the actual applications that run on top of these Smart Parks infrastructures. We develop and produce state-of-the-art devices with the sole purpose of wildlife protection, park management, tourist safety and community conservation. Our OpenCollar portfolio of devices has evolved over the years and has enabled many critical applications. With the help of the technology for conservation community we continue to grow the capabilities the OpenCollar devices have to offer.
With support from organisations like PBNF and WWF the Netherlands we are working on a brand new CollarEdge series, especially to protect Desert Lion in Namibia, to add Iridium satellite tracking to our Elephant tracking collars and to release the new FenceEdge for electric fence monitoring. With Peace Parks Foundation we continue to advance the RhinoEdge devices, having exciting new capabilities in sight for 2024! We also have a very promising development project going with The King’s University in Edmonton – Canada, to develop a tiny location tracking collar for urban Hares. This new unit collar CollarEdge – Pico will open up the OpenCollar portfolio for smaller animals.
An expanding portfolio of devices, with many new advanced feature has driven us to extend our Wiki page, where users can find all information needed to use the devices and features. A big shout out to our friend Krasi Georgiev, who has taken the lead in building the online Smart Parks Connect web application to make it easier to send downlinks to your Edge device using a LoRaWAN server or using the RockBLOCK Iridium platform. We hope to extend the portfolio with these kind of tools.
Deployment Luwire Mozambique
In September 2022 the Smart Parks team went back to Mozambique to finalise the Luwire Wildlife Conservancy deployment we started in September 2021. Back 2021 we installed the core of the LoRaWAN infrastructure to cover part of the 445700 hectares of pristine wilderness in Niassa Special Reserve, Mozambique. During the expedition in September 2022, we added an additional 3 full site stations and a camera monitoring system at two entrance gates. An expedition wouldn’t be an expedition without any challenges. Extreme wild fires ravaged the Niassa Special Reserve, a natural however daunting phenomenon. When installing the solar panels and camera system at Mabeco (which means wild dog) gate, the wildfire got a bit too close for comfort whilst Tim was still on the roof.
During the previous expedition, we were still dealing with very strict COVID-19 regulations. However, this time we were able to go out to one of the communities in the Luwire Wildlife Conservancy where efforts are in place to empower women with the amazing YAO crochet project. Most people living in these rural communities have negative associations with animal species like lion, crocodiles, zebra and elephants. By making crochet toys the women can earn a living, the toys are sold in stores in Maputo, and at the same time the children in the village that can play with the toys get a more positive association with these animal species. Human-wildlife conflicts are frequent, mostly in the form of crop raiding by elephants. A phenomenon we witnessed with our own eyes whilst driving out of the village. With the wildfires and drought, there is not enough food for the elephants to survive which draws them to the villages. A herd of elephants can easily devour a full field of crops, jeopardising the villagers food supply.
Gonarezhou NP, Zimbabwe
One of Smart Parks team members, Ariet, spent roughly 3 months in Gonarezhou National Park in Zimbabwe. Back in March 2022 we built a LoRaWAN network and deployed the first ElephantEdge collar. Now in 2023 the Smart Parks network is in full use with even the first Rhinos fitted with the brand new RhinoEdge Cubes and Puck 34 devices.
WildlifeNL and the Wolf
Now the WildlifeNL multi-year reach program has officially started, the Smart Parks team is fully engaged in the first workshops and events shaping the different work-packages. At the same time Smart Parks got involved into the sensitive topic of wild Wolf further expanding their presence in the Netherlands. The society is looking for ways of coping with this new situation, including ways of monitoring individual wolfs with tracking devices. Working together with many parties, we offer our technology and knowledge to assist in these challenges, for example with tracking devices.
After more then two years, Ariet Bouman has left the Smart Parks team to continue her passionate journey at Tanka Foundation. We are looking back at an amazing time doing many Smart Parks deployments, training sessions and manufacturing days in our Utrecht Office. We are also happy to having Peter van Lunteren joining our team to advance the Desert Lion Conservation effort with his EcoAssist tool. EcoAssist is an open-source application designed to streamline the work of ecologists dealing with camera trap images. It’s an AI platform that enables annotation, training, and deployment of custom models for automatic species detection, offering ecologists a way to save time reviewing images and focus on conservation efforts.