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Image: Swedish Univ. of Agricultural SciencesSince 1960s, the black rhinoceros population has fallen by 90%. The IUCN Red List of Threatened Species lists black rhinos as “critically endangered.”

Today, there are almost 5,000 black rhinos and over 20,000 white rhinos, according to the World Wild Life Fund for Nature. But poaching is a constant threat to the animals. In South Africa, 122 rhinos were killed in 2009, and in 2010 the number rose to 333.

The numbers are staggering, especially since the IUCN estimates rhino populations in the early 20th century are believed to number around 850,000.

In an attempt to stop poaching, Paul O’Donoghue, of Chester Univ., has developed a surveillance system called RAPID, short for Real-time Anti-poaching Intelligence Device, according to The Independent.  

The hope is to “catch the poachers red-handed” by outfitting rhinos with “basically a burglar alarm,” O’Donoghue said in a BBC News video. Conservationist fit the camera into a hole drill into the rhino’s horn. The method apparently is painless. Additionally, the team wants to attach heart monitors to the rhinos, which will set of an alarm if the rhino is shot, alerting local park rangers. The device uses mobile and satellite technology to alert rangers of the rhino’s location.

“Rhinos are currently experiencing unprecedented poaching pressure, with rates of one animal killed every 13 hrs in some areas, and are fast heading towards wholesale extinction in the wild,” wrote O’Donoghue and colleague Christian Rutz, of the Univ. of St. Andrews, in their paper featured in the Journal of Applied Ecology.   

The paper was received by the journal in August 2014 and published in April 2015. In recent interviews, O’Donoghue said one rhino is killed every six hours in Africa.   

The authors estimate a well-designed alarm system could trigger within 10 secs of an animal being shot. “In the majority of scenarios (that) will be faster than poachers could reach the animal and destroy its tag,” O’Donoghue and Rutz write. “Anti-poaching units often have helicopters at their disposal, ensuring that crime scenes could be reached within minutes, or tens of minutes, after receiving an alert.”

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