eleAlert : National Science Foundation Award Winner!
Breaking News - the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society wins an award from the National Science Foundation of Sri Lanka
The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society (SLWCS), University of Moratuwa and Dialog Telekom PC won a National Science Foundation Award for the eleAlert technology that was jointly developed to address human-elephant conflicts. The eleAlert system was awarded this year’s award for "Science and Technology Contribution to Improve Sustainable Social Development" by the Sri Lanka National Science Foundation. The eleAlert (elephant intrusion early warning alert) system is a concept that was developed by the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society and the technology was developed jointly in collaboration with the University of Moratuwa and Dialog Telekom PLC. The SLWCS received funding support from the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) and the Asian Elephant Conservation Fund of the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service to develop the eleAlert System.
To understand the importance of the eleAlert system and how it would contribute to elephant conservation―it should be viewed within the current context of human elephant conflicts which has become one of the biggest environmental and socio-economic crises of Sri Lanka.
Today it is estimated that there are ~ 4,200-5,000 wild elephants in Sri Lanka and to support this population of elephants requires at least 21,000 to 25,000 square kilometers or 32-38% of the total land area of Sri Lanka. On average one elephant needs at least 5 square kilometers of optimum habitat to survive. The national parks cover only 12.5% of the total land area and nearly 70% of the elephants live outside the national parks sharing land with rural people. As a result human elephant conflict is prevalent in 8 of the 9 Administrative Provinces in Sri Lanka affecting over 3 million people! From 1992 - 2008, 914 people were killed by elephants and 2,337 elephants were killed by people and from 2004 to 2007 a total of 3,103 homes were destroyed by elephants. Up until 2007 the average number of elephants killed per annum was 150 elephants. Since 2008 the average number of elephants killed has gone up to 225 elephants per year. Over 90% of the deaths are due to retaliatory killing by farmers of elephants for destroying their crops, homes and lives.
In addition to the above losses, the damages caused by elephants to paddy fields, home gardens, maize and other cereal cultivations and coconut plantations in many parts of the Dry Zone has been estimated to cost Rs. 1,100 million (US$10 million) annually. The increasing rural poverty among rural farmers due to agricultural losses, damage to house and property by elephants and the equally increasing number of destitute families due to a breadwinner in the family being killed by elephants, makes this a very serious socio-economic crisis in Sri Lanka.
In 1996, the Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society embarked on its efforts to study HEC to develop strategies to resolve it. As an outcome in 1997, the SLWCS established its internationally acclaimed Saving Elephants by Helping People (SEHP) Project to develop innovative strategies to address HEC. In 2008, the UNDP Equator Initiative awarded the SEHP Project an Equator Prize. The Equator Prize is an international award that honors community-based projects that represent outstanding efforts to reduce poverty through the conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity.
One of the seminal concepts of the SEHP project was to erect solar powered electric fences around communities to keep elephants “out” rather than fence them “in” national parks. The first such community-based effort was initiated in 1997 and that electric fence has been continuously operating for past 12 years and it is entirely managed, maintained and operated by the villagers.
From very early on the SLWCS realized that however well electric fences are maintained―a determined elephant or elephants will somehow manage to find a way to break them. When such an incident happened it was vital to know immediately when and where the fence was broken. Currently the only way to find out when an elephant had broken through an electric fence is, either when the elephant is actually observed in the village or finding the place where the fence has been broken during routine maintenance inspections. This posed a very high risk and danger to the villagers and it was imperative to find a solution. Unfortunately there was no cost effective way to monitor or to be alerted of such breaches.
In 2007 the SLWCS began to develop ideas to provide electric fences with an alarm system to alert villagers when elephants tried to break through them. Various alarm systems including domestic and commercial burglar alarms that remotely alert law enforcement officers of attempts by intruders to break into premises were considered. The costs of such technology at the scale they had to be applied on electric fences were prohibitive.
In 2008 through a serendipitous set of circumstances the SLWCS and the Dialog Electronics Communications Laboratory of the University of Moratuwa got to meet. The resulting conversations, discussions, field visits, research and development led to the development of the eleAlert system.
The eleAlert system detects intrusions of fences and other demarcating boundaries and the exact locations of such intrusions. eleAlert consists of sensors mounted on fence posts, which are able to detect tilts and shocks. In the event of such a detection, the network of sensors carry messages immediately to a gateway through which the information can be relayed to one or more recipients as SMS messages and also activate audible and visual alarm devices via a mobile network. The eleAlert components can be remotely configured and tested via the Internet from a central location. The time and location of faults can be logged into a computer database in order to identify common problem sites and to keep track of repair time.
Due to its simplicity and cost effectiveness the eleAlert system is an easily affordable technology that has tremendous potential to increase the effectiveness of any fence or containment device erected along a boundary to contain or deter animal or human intrusions.
BBC South Asia News
The Sri Lanka Wildlife Conservation Society and it efforts to address one of the biggest environmental and socioeconomic crises of the rural Dry Zone in Sri Lanka, which is human-elephant conflicts was featured by BBC South Asia News: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-south-asia-11596075