When I saw the article in the Washington Post I thought, “I know that farm! I’ve been there!” So I called Bobby Prigel to see how he felt about his herd of Jerseys working on a project to save African elephants and rhinoceros from poachers. He said, “Oh, that’s what those folks were doing? I just knew they needed a herd of cows to try some things with.” So there you go. He was working on saving wildlife without even knowing it! Here’s what we both learned together.
Approximately 100,000 African elephants were killed between 2010 and 2012. Poachers are decimating the elephant population, and wrecking havoc on rhinos and other wildlife as well. Rhino poaching averaged 9 animals per year from 1980-2007, and the numbers ballooned after that. In 2014, poachers slaughtered 1215 rhinos.
To combat poachers, the WWF is hoping to keep an eye on things from up to 1 km away. Researchers have been developing software and thermal camera technology to monitor elephant herds and notify park rangers if a human comes nearby. Thermal cameras and monitoring systems will “learn” to identify humans and will send a text or email to park rangers to alert them. The thermal cameras are $7000 apiece, which sounds like a lot. If they work, though, they will be worth it. Tourism to visit wildlife is a huge source of income, and the ability to keep the elephants and rhinos safe will make a huge difference.
A trial run was held in the Prigel Family Creamery’s pastures with cows playing the role of African wildlife. The researchers walked along the roads to simulate poachers. This helped them find some of the kinks they need to work out, like how to make sure that SUVs and cows aren’t being misidentified. They will keep working on it, and in July, the plan was to check it out in East Africa.
Until they’re called upon to help again, the superhero cows will go back to making great ice cream.
Want more? Here’s a link to the Washington Post article that alerted us to the Prigel Family Creamery’s work to save elephants. It even includes a video of the cows being elephants.