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  1. ITV Report

Rhino spy cameras to help crackdown on poachers

Experts hope the new technology can turn the tables on poachers. Credit: PA

Rhinos being hunted by poachers have received a new boost thanks to a British-designed spy camera and GPS system that can be implanted in their horns.

Experts hope the technology, which also includes a heart-rate monitor that triggers an alarm if a rhino is shot, could help turn the tables on poachers.

Park rangers will be helicoptered to the scene within minutes of an alarm, guided by the GPS, giving poachers no time to escape.

The video footage captured on the horn camera can then be used as evidence to secure a conviction.

The system, known as the Protect RAPID (Real-time Anti Poaching Intelligence Device) could be trialled in South Africa in the next six to nine months and be adapted for use on other hunted animals, such as elephants and tigers.

The University of Chester's Dr Paul O'Donoghue, who developed the system and has worked with endangered black rhino populations for more than 15 years, said a rhino is killed every six hours in Africa.

Dr Paul O'Donoghue has worked with endangered black rhino populations for more than 15 years. Credit: PA

Dr O'Donoghue said: "The issues are many, but there's far too much money at stake to believe that legislation alone can make the difference."

"We had to find a way to protect these animals effectively in the field; the killing has to be stopped.

"You can't outrun a helicopter - the Protect RAPID renders poaching a pointless exercise."

Since 2007, rhino poaching has increased by more than 9,000-fold in South Africa alone.

Rhinos are poached for their horns, which are used for medicine and dagger handles. Credit: Reuters

Dr O'Donoghue, a lecturer in biological sciences, developed the system for non-profit conservation organisation Protect, which plans to conduct the first trials next year.

Protect director Steve Piper said: "The figures make it painfully clear; there is no time to waste, the tide has to be turned and the Protect RAPID can do it. The only thing heading for extinction over the next decade is poaching itself."

The project has received the backing of comedian Ricky Gervais, who regularly voices opposition to poaching and other forms of animal cruelty.

Ricky Gervais has backed the project. Credit: PA

He said: "We finally have the technology to catch these people red handed, and if they know that then they'll think twice before killing another beautiful rhino.

"Finally we might have a fighting chance of saving this astonishing species from extinction."