Postcode Meerkat is the unlikely name for ground-breaking technology that is making waves in anti-poaching circles. The product of a partnership between South African National Parks (SANParks), Peace Parks Foundation and South Africa’s Council for Scientific and Industrial Research (CSIR), its name recognises the generous donations from the UK People’s Postcode Lottery, the Dutch Postcode Lottery and the Swedish Postcode Lottery, which all contributed towards the research, development and deployment of the system.
It is in fact the most advanced wide-area surveillance system ever developed for counter-poaching purposes on the African continent and specifically developed to protect wildlife in vast conservation areas such as the Kruger National Park. Using a combination of radar and electro-optical technology, the astounding capabilities of Postcode Meerkat have added heft to counter-poaching operations. Spectacular results have been achieved already, with a significant decrease in rhino poaching cited in its areas of operation.
Since 2008, when heavy poaching began in Kruger National Park, the rhino population has been steadily decreasing. With limited numbers of rangers to cover the vast expanse of Kruger – a vast 20 000 km2 – it proved an extremely difficult task to track, find and capture poachers.
The Meerkat system acts like extra eyes on the ground and can be in operation 24/7, so it makes the rangers’ jobs much safer too. Forewarned on the number and location of poachers including having an idea of how they are armed, rangers can head into the field much better prepared, and therefore more likely to get success.
This and many other successes achieved through collaboration with various partners and supporters have led to a huge increase in the rangers’ morale.
It is through generous donations like the Postcode Lotteries that the Peace Parks work can continue, and they send out grateful thanks to all those involved.