These AI-powered collars are saving elephants and rhinos from poachers. Meet the South Florida nonprofit making it happen.

By Riley Kaminer

We hear a lot of horror stories about artificial intelligence these days – and this is only likely to accelerate as it becomes increasingly normal to strap $3,500 VR goggles to your face.

Today’s story about AI is far from a nightmare, however. Much to the contrary, it reveals AI’s potential to make a better world for all.

It all begins with the Brady Hunter Foundation, a Miami-based nonprofit on a mission to improve animal welfare on a global scale. The organization has partnered with Animal Survival International (ASI) to combat the illegal hunting and poaching of animals at the Addo Elephant National Park in South Africa.

But there’s a twist, and it’s all in the technology.

Brady Hunter has funded the purchase of 10 AI-enabled collars, five for elephants and five for rhinos, that continuously monitor animals’ vital signs and even learn their behavioral patterns. 

“At the first sign of anxiety or abnormal activity, the AI tracker sends a real-time alert via network towers placed at various points across the park to AENP’s anti-poaching unit, which can be dispatched immediately,” explained Alissa Ford, one of the directors at ASI responsible for the partnership. This shortens response time to a matter of minutes and has completely revolutionized the way Addo’s anti-poaching unit tracks, monitors and protects endangered wildlife species.

“It is the difference between life and death for these animals,” Ford asserted, adding that these collars act as a deterrent to poaching. “Information from inside the parks spreads to poachers – and knowing that there can now be a response within minutes, as opposed to days, deters them from entering.”

As an additional benefit, the collars tracking features help us understand their habitat use and migration patterns, ultimately informing future conservation efforts. The technology underpinning these collars was developed by South African engineer SP le Roux.

Josh Fox

These efforts are critical. One rhino is killed every day, and one elephant is killed every 15 min – almost 100 elephants per day. African savanna elephant populations have dwindled by at least 60% over the last 50 years. “If we continue at this pace, by 2030 there could be no elephants left in the wild,” shared Ford.

Josh Fox, founder of the Brady Hunter Foundation, noted the exciting possibility tech-enabled solutions like this can play in improving animal welfare. He also noted Brady Hunter’s support of a project to deploy anti-poaching drones. “The best results happen when we combine humans and tech,” Fox told Refresh Miami.

So how do they actually vet technologies such as this? Brady Hunter’s VP of Marketing & Communications, Paige Bresky, said it’s all about having the right partners. “We’ve been in constant communication with Alissa and the ASI team. Thanks to her, we could see the efficiency and effectiveness of our donation with our own eyes.”

Photo at top of post: The AI-enabled collar was put on an elephant while sedated.


Riley Kaminer