Remote Patrol

June 7, 2007
Park rangers may not have to use robotic decoy animals to draw out poachers anymore thanks to a visiting researcher at the SUNY College of Environmental Science and Forestry (ESF).

Julie Kalista
Online Editor

The TrailGuard metal detectors are buried in trails used by both humans and animals. Poachera carrying weapons trip the detector, that sends law enforcement officials a signal via satellite.
Steve Gulick, an electrical engineer there designed a metal detector that picks up the presence of poachers' weapons and sends an electronic warning signal via satellite to law enforcement authorities.

The device, known as TrailGuard, uses a network of miniaturized, weatherproofed, and concealed sensors to pick up the presence of weapons such as machetes, assault rifles, and shotguns. It can be buried along trails and give out silent signals so poachers don't know they've been detected. Park rangers plan to place the detectors at the entry points of protected areas as an early warning so they can catch the poachers before they kill. Armed officials would have transponders so they are not mistaken for poachers.

Because rangers must protect huge areas with limited manpower, TrailGuard is a cost-effective way to protect animals. It has the advantage of being active at all hours of the day for up to ten years with little maintanence costs. "It was purely a transfer of technology," says Gulick. TrailGurad uses the same detection system as airport metal detectors.

Several parks using effective anti-poaching surveillance have seen a significant decrease in poaching. TrailGuard has been tested in a national park in the Democratic Republic of Congo and will be tested at Nouabale-Ndoki National Park in the Republic of Congo.

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