Conservationists in Tanzania use tech platform to protect endangered species

In a Tanzanian game reserve ivory poachers have been put on notice, thanks to new technology designed to protect one of the world's most endangered species.

GRUMETI, TANZANIA (REUTERS) - They seem as old as time itself but now they're getting help from new technology.

And they need it.

Between 2006 and 2015, one in five of Africa's elephants died amid a surge in ivory poaching.

This is Tanzania - where three years ago the government recruited celebrities and religious leaders to help raise awareness.

And where today, there's new faith in a system called EarthRanger.

From an operations room, it can track - and thus help protect - remotely.

"We monitor all our assets, every collared animal and we input data which in turn helps us make decisions and plan operations," said EarthRanger operations room coordinator Alina Peter.

The collars - visible behind the trunk and tusks - send sensor information back to base.

Together with other readings from trackers, vehicles, remote cameras and GPS data, the new tech platform aggregates and alerts when threats from poachers emerge.

US firm Vulcan Inc - set up by Microsoft co-founder Paul Allen - developed the platform.

Vulcan Inc's principal business development manager for conservation technology, Paul Schmitt, said, "It takes you from being reactive and always behind and always after an animal has been killed, or a ranger has been injured or killed to being proactive, to really being able to anticipate and get ahead of the problem." 

Helping safeguard the lives of elephants and other wildlife under threat, says Vulcan, and those on the front line protecting them.

"Our job used to be very difficult ... You had to take lots of notes and keep in constant communication with the control room," said Gotera Gamba, a game scout. "But EarthRanger communication takes just seconds."

A system its developers say can also make conservation dollars go further.

Booming demand from Asia led Tanzania to declare elephant poaching a national disaster in 2015.

This an economic battle where money is a weapon too, and where technology can provide the firepower.