Geotagging proving fatal for endangered rhinos
posted Wednesday, May 7, 2014 at 10:07 AM EDT
Rhino populations in Africa -- especially the black rhino -- are still critically endangered despite ongoing conservation efforts and positive population growth in the past several decades. Rhino horn is still in demand across the world, with poachers going to extreme lengths to locate and track their next kill.
With the increasing regularity and integration of GPS technology into our everyday devices -- from cellphones to DSLRs -- comes a dramatic tradeoff to the well-being of African rhinos. The Sunday Times reported in a interview back in 2012 that rhino poachers have taken to social media feeds seeking out geotagged images that unwittingly relay the exact location of these elusive mammals. Marc Reading, a South African national park representative, explained that these poachers are even going so far as to send mock tourists into safari parks for the purpose of covertly conducting this 'geo reconnaissance.'
“The exact co-ordinates are attached to the picture, allowing poachers to come in after dark and track the animal, ” Reading said.
This is a quintessentially 21st century photo pic.twitter.com/rXvB12xMm6— Tim Bennett (@flashman) May 5, 2014
Jacques Flamand of World Wildlife Federation South Africa is an outspoken conservationist and proponent of rhino repopulation efforts. “Black rhino, and rhinos generally, are under huge pressure. If they don’t have champions, they’re doomed to disappear,” Flamand said.
As casual observers and unofficial news reporters of tomorrow, it is up to us to be responsible for the potential ways in which our media may or may not be utilized. Disabling or removing the GPS data on our cameras and smartphones when shooting sensitive and endangered subjects is one such consideration to make, and is a step in the right direction!