Ricky Gervais is backing new camera and satellite technology that will give wildlife a “fighting chance” against poachers.
Created by British scientist Dr Paul O'Donoghue, the real-time monitoring device has been welcomed by experts as ground-breaking and will help animals facing extinction, including rhinos, tigers and elephants.
HSI reveals that rhino poaching has increased by about 9,300 per cent since 2007 in South Africa.
The area's vast landscapes mean that often anti-poaching forces are unaware of poaching until it is too late.
But the new technology will hopefully lead to more arrests and conviction, thereby acting as a deterrent to poachers.
Animal lover Gervais said the attacks on rhinos “utterly disgusts” him and is backing Dr O’Donoghue’s Real-Time Anti-Poaching Intelligence Device (RAPID).
The 54-year-old said: “Poachers know full well that they can kill rhinos with almost no chance of being caught or prosecuted.
“Sometimes they even cut off the animal’s horn and half its face whilst it is still alive. It’s barbaric.
“The killing won’t stop unless we increase the chances of poachers getting caught, and the RAPID device does just that.
“It means we finally have the technology to catch these people red handed, and if they know that instead of walking away they’ll likely be sent to jail, they’ll think twice before killing another beautiful rhino.
“And then finally we might have a fighting chance of saving this astonishing species from extinction. I strongly urge everyone to support this project.”
Protect RAPID combines a GPS satellite collar with a heart rate monitor and video camera.
Rhino with video camera
The camera will broadcast day and night in real time, and the information will be relayed back to a control centre where anti-poaching teams can then be dispatched to poaching events almost immediately.
British researcher Dr O'Donoghue has worked with endangered black rhino populations for more than 15 years.
He said: “Currently a rhino is butchered every six hours in Africa, the issues are many, but there's far too much money at stake to believe that legislation alone can make the difference, we had to find a way to protect these animals effectively in the field; the killing has to be stopped.
“With this device, the heart rate monitor triggers the alarm the instant a poaching event occurs, pinpointing the location within a few metres so that rangers can be on the scene via helicopter or truck within minutes, leaving poachers no time to harvest the valuable parts of an animal or make good an escape.
“You can't outrun a helicopter, the Protect RAPID renders poaching a pointless exercise.”
Dr Paul O'Donoghue with a sedated rhino in South Africa
Leading rhino veterinarians and conservationists in South Africa have voiced their support for the new technology.
Dean Peinke, Specialist Mammal Ecologist for the Eastern Cape Parks and Tourism Agency, said the “devices tip the balance strongly in our favour”.
HSI, which is working with the government of Vietnam on an effective education and outreach programme to reduce demand for rhino horn, is supporting the devices development.
Claire Bass, executive director of HSI UK, said: “The Protect RAPID could be a game changer in the increasingly desperate fight against poaching, and the technology has the potential to be applied to other critically endangered species including tigers and elephants.”
Steve Piper, a director of Protect, added: “We hope to have a fully functional control centre established early next year.
“The figures make it painfully clear; there is no time to waste, the tide has to be turned and the Protect RAPID can do it; the only thing heading for extinction over the next decade is poaching itself.”
HSI has donated funds towards RAPID to help get it up and running in the field, but the group urged that more money is desperately still needed.