This Kickstarter request will help fund the creation of an open source wildlife tracking collar. The system is being developed to help save the last 2000 remaining lions in Kenya and is a continuation of work done in conjunction with the Lion Guardians Program and the Living with Lions research group. These organizations work to protect the last lions living in Kenya as well as the Maasai herders' pastoral livelihood. The pledged $9000 would help fund the cost of parts, travel expenses for testing and labor in building the prototype. The project consists of two parts, a tracking system that utilizes GPS/GSM technology to locate and track wildlife and the open source documentation of the work. The first $1200 dollars over the target amount will go directly to sponsor a Lion Guardian for a full year in Kenya.
This project resulted from a previous trip to Kenya where I, Justin Downs of GRND Lab, built a solar-powered tree-house for the Lion Guardians' research camp. The Lion Guardians program focuses on mediating the conflict between the Maasai herders and the lions who prey on their cows. The Maasai, in retaliation to killed livestock or political conflicts, poison or hunt the lions, causing a disappearance of the lions in the wild.
While there, I learned that the conservation techniques having the greatest effect in Kenya are those that look at the ecosystem as a whole. In other words, all information collected about the local environment from elephant data to cattle data - two species that co-exist with the lions - is now integral to the understanding and effectiveness of lion conservation efforts. Because of this it is now common practice for researchers in inter-related fields of study to share data after collecting and analyzing it. This project’s technology and open source development was conceived specifically to address this method of working.
How is this tracking collar prototype different from the current tracking technology in use today? It differs greatly because it will remain an open source technology, making it free and easily accessible to the public. This has the effect that if the technology is used by the large community of researchers in Kenya (i.e. lion, elephant or climate researchers) they would be able to share valuable data in real time, rather than delaying the process with incompatible technologies. This would save these foundations large amounts of time and money, while expediting finding solutions to the ecological/conservation problems. Also, by open-sourcing this technology anyone who is interested in data aggregation and tracking (from technologists to small business owners and even artists) would finally have open access, bringing a larger audience into the development of these technologies, reducing cost and speeding up innovation overall.
So any help you could give to this venture would be very appreciated and we will keep you up to date on all the changes and status of this project and the wildlife it involves.
- (67 days)