By Michael Thomsen For Dailymail.com
Published: 01:22 GMT, 14 February 2020 | Updated: 01:27 GMT, 14 February 2020
Conservationists in South Africa’s largest national park have built an ambitious surveillance system to protect its dwindling rhino population from poachers.
The system, codenamed ‘Postcode Meerkat,’ monitors Kruger National Park, a 7,700 square mile conservation area along the border with Mozambique.
It uses a series of strategically-placed 12-foot tall posts equipped with radar sensors, cameras, and infrared monitors that allow it to record footage at night.
Rhinos in South Africa's Kruger National Park are being monitored by an ambitious surveillance system, codenamed 'Postcode Meerkat' (pictured above)
The solar powered radar and camera sensors scan the surrounding area for motion and connect to a computer system that can distinguish between animal and human movement.
When a potential group of poachers is flagged by one of the sensors, a ‘reaction unit’ travels to the area via helicopter or SUV to further investigate.
Since the Meerkat system first became operational in 2016, rhino deaths in the park have steadily declined, going from 504 in 2017 to 422 in 2018.
The number of encounters with poachers over the same period has remained mostly steady, with 2,662 recorded incursions into the park in 2017 and 2,620 incursions in 2018.
Most of those incursions are recorded by the surveillance system but only a small percentage ever lead to direct contact with park staff.
Rhino populations in Kruger National Park are estimated to be between 7,000 and 8,000, and the number of annual deaths from poaching have slowly declined since Meerkat was implemented