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Celebrating 100: EarthRanger Global Expansion Hits Milestone

Since EarthRanger’s first deployment at Kenya’s Lewa Wildlife Conservancy in 2016, the online software solution developed by Vulcan Inc. has been helping protected area managers make informed, conservation-related operational decisions.

Now after three years, EarthRanger is working with over 100 sites across 30 countries, helping to protect over 650,000 square kilometers and monitor 50 species of endangered and threatened species and their habitats. Elephants, rhinos, snow leopards, pangolins, and invasive species are all being tracked by these 100 diverse sites, each with their own challenges in conservation, but all with the shared goal of protecting biodiversity.

EarthRanger was initially developed as an anti-poaching tool inspired by the results of the 2016 Great Elephant Census, the first pan-African census in over 40 years. The census results were sobering – Africa’s savanna elephant population plummeted 30 percent in just seven years. To reverse the trend, protected area managers and rangers needed support bridging the data gap, quickly integrating information they gathered in a central location.

“The thing we kept hearing was that even though they did not have enough data, they already felt overwhelmed by it,” Vulcan’s Ted Schmitt, a program manager on the Great Elephant Census and early lead on EarthRanger told Bloomberg. “There were all these little silos of data, but nothing to bring it into one picture to make use of it.”

EarthRanger was developed with scalability in mind, a one-stop data hub where protected area managers can monitor and make decisions in real-time. Protected areas are vast, in many cases tens of thousands of square kilometers. With EarthRanger, data from digital radios, animal collars, vehicle tracking, and sensors are centralized and visualized in one location, giving officials and rangers the ability to deploy their resources quickly and efficiently. If a snare is discovered or an elephant enters a human settlement, officials can direct the closest rangers to address the situation. Since its inception, Vulcan has connected with an increasing number of protected areas about how EarthRanger can benefit their teams. The steady growth in vastly different locations, from the North American prairie to the coast of Mozambique, shows how versatile EarthRanger can be for protected area managers. Each of the 100 sites are unique, but all have found EarthRanger to be useful in improving their daily work.

Fennec fox
A fennec fox seen in Chad's Ennedi Natural and Cultural Reserve, courtesy Elsa Bussiere for African Parks.

Rangers patrol South Luangwa National Park
Rangers patrol Zambia's South Luangwa National Park, photo courtesy Conservation South Luangwa.

Pineland Nature Reserve
A look at New Jersey's Pineland Nature Reserve, USA's first National Reserve. Photo courtesy Jason Howell.

Equally as important, EarthRanger is giving researchers new insights into the behaviors of the wildlife they’re protecting. The ability to analyze elephant, rhino, or cheetah movements helps highlight patterns, advocate for protected corridors, and direct future conservation planning. If an elephant always takes the same route to a farmer’s crops, efforts to redirect the elephant or protect the crops can take place in real-time, protecting both the animal and the livelihood of the farmer.

EarthRanger was first developed to address the elephant crisis, but now the same technology used to protect Africa’s gentle giants is now being used to track a locust outbreak in Northern Kenya and tackle the alarming rate of deforestation in Cambodia.

“EarthRanger protects more than elephants. It’s addressing a myriad of threats to biodiversity in protected areas across the globe.” said Jes Lefcourt, EarthRanger Product Manager at Vulcan Inc. ”As conservation areas everywhere are being asked to do more with less, we’re working hard to augment their efficacy and capabilities.”

In the last year, the EarthRanger team has partnered with Save the Elephants, CyberTracker and Mara Elephant Project so the EarthRanger platform can be accessed from all mobile devices giving officials and rangers the ability to monitor the location of assets and enter real-time data directly from the field. EarthRanger is now integrated with more than 50 hardware devices and, as we move into the new year, the team continues to add more integrations with the technology that protected areas are already using.

But technology is only a tool; when it comes to protecting wildlife, it's the partners on the ground who truly bring conservation home. And we’re proud to develop the no-cost tools they need to do what they do best: safeguard the biodiversity of their own backyards.