Is improved technology helping conservation efforts?
As time passes, people are beginning to have nostalgic mentalities and the past often appears to hold more utopian aspects compared to the present day. It can seem more harmonious without the improved technology which can interfere with our connection to nature and sense of reality versus the ‘virtual world’. As a result, technology has acquired negative connotations, and so one would expect it to also have negative associations with future conservation efforts. However, in fact the emergence of advanced technology has opened many doors into helping conserve animal species.
An example I found on the BBC *depicts how the development of flying drones, known as ‘Shepherds of the sky’, has led to a reduction in poaching of African rhinos and African elephants. In 2015 alone, 20,000 elephants and 1,300 rhinos were killed by poachers for their horns and tusks, greatly desired in particular areas of the world for medicine to treat the sick and believed by some to have decorative appeal. The innovation of these drones has allowed video recordings to link to mobile control centres where ground crews operate the aircraft. Operating mainly in reserves in Southern Africa, Malawi and Zimbabwe these drones send the location of any spotted poachers back to the groundcrews, allowing rangers to intercept them more efficiently. It can be argued that, more importantly, the drones act as a deterrent to the poachers and has significantly diminished poaching numbers. Unfortunately, due to little, infrequent wages and poor training, many of the local rangers are easily bribed by the poachers meaning very few are actually arrested and prosecuted. However, the point remains that improved technology has allowed the production of flying drones, which in turn has greatly stagnated the number of elephants and rhinos being poached in areas of Africa.
Another outcome of advancing technology which has benefitted conservation efforts is the development of compact and discreet high-resolution cameras. When placed in hidden areas of an animal’s habitat it is able to record hours of footage which can be crucial for analysing and understanding animal behaviour and habits to help us understand and predict their behaviour and therefore reduce animal-human conflict. Not only this, but it can make us aware of any potential problems, such as disease, so that we can act and prevent it from spreading into an endemic or worse, pandemic. Some may read this and question whether this is interfering with nature to an unacceptable extent. In one sense, it is, however, every day we meddle with the lives and habitats of animals all around the world, driving them to extinction therefore, to help prevent them from dying human intervention of an animal-friendly manner is required. A subtler, but ever-increasing consequence of improved filming abilities is the widening opportunity for nature programs. For example, David Attenborough has recently produced an astonishing series, Blue Planet 2, the filming of which takes on the extremities of nature, such as diving 600m deep to the bottom of the Antarctic Ocean. These programs have helped encourage interest and care for animals in the future generations of animal conservers.
Finally, and in my opinion, the most interesting result of developing technology is the invention of the high-tech magnetic fish hook. These hooks have a special metal coating which produce a voltage in seawater. Sharks and dolphins are highly sensitive to electric fields and so are encouraged to steer clear of the fishing area. This reduces the risk of larger fish being caught on fishing hooks by mass-fishing industries, ensuring only the targeted fish are caught. It can again be argued that the formation of electric fields beneath the sea surface can have a multiplier effect on many species of marine life, potentially disturbing migratory patterns. Despite this, it is still, I believe, a step in the right direction.
To conclude, although perhaps surprising due to the opposition to technical advances by those who fear change, improved technology is in fact helping conservation efforts all around the world and I hope that this will continue in the future.
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- Is improved technology helping conservation efforts? - 8th January 2018