Using IoT to Reduce Ivory Poaching

If we can connect a cow to the Internet, why not an elephant?

This is what Sarah Eccleston, Director of Enterprise Networking and IOE in UK and Ireland for Cisco, was determined to find out how she could use the Internet of Everything to reduce ivory poaching. She was determined to use an innovative approach to using technology to save animals roaming in the wild.

Below is Sarah's story, in her words, about her mission to use her tech skills outside of work to make a difference in solving a problem that will have a long-lasting effect upon humanity.


Sarah setting up a Cisco WLAN in the African bush using an Inmarsat BGAN and a Cisco 819 Ruggedised router.

Can IoE Reduce Ivory Poaching?

As Director of Enterprise Networking and IOE, I regularly evangelize the power of the Internet of Everything, illustrating my point with examples such as connected cars, connected clothes, connected cities, and even connected cows.

I then got to thinking that if we can connect cows to the Internet, why can we not connect elephants to the Internet, to reduce ivory poaching? An elephant gets shot for its ivory every 15 minutes; that is 36,000 elephants killed a year. By connecting an elephant to the Internet, we would know its location and biometric data. So when an elephant is shot, the ranger could respond to the location immediately, with more chance to catch the poacher.

I applied to Game Rangers International elephant orphanage in Zambia to spend a month there as a researcher, identifying elephants in the wild, so that at the same time I could complete a feasibility study of how technology could assist the whole conservation process. They accepted my request and I used my PTO to live at their camp in Kalule for one month.

During my month-long stay, I was exposed to the anti-poaching unit, the orphanage and the team dealing with human-elephant conflict. This helped me understand their challenges and processes. I was able to identify where technology could improve those processes. I took an Inmarsat BGAN and a Cisco 819 IOE router with me to Zambia, and despite living in a camp with no electricity or running water, I was able to build a solar powered Cisco Wireless LAN network, deep in the African wild.

Cisco supported the publication of a blog during my visit, documenting what I learned, and I published a Google+ page. A large number of people got in touch with me on the topic and we have been able to put together a variety of teams and projects working to use technology to save endangered species.

I am really proud to work for a company that enables me to fuse my profession and my personal passions together—so I am able to use my experience of technology gained at Cisco to make a difference in the world. I am looking forward to seeing the results.

If we save just one rhino, or prevent just one more baby elephant from becoming an orphan when its mother is shot for her ivory tusks, it will have all been worthwhile.


NetAcad Advantage Reading Note: Now more than ever, we need problem solvers who use their innovative skills to create solutions. There are many skills we will need for the future, learn more about how you can develop them through Cisco Networking Academy coursework.

This article was originally featured on Cisco’s Real Deal stories.