The Meerkat Wide Area Surveillance System (WASS) provides the capability to detect and track poachers over many kilometres, distinguishing them from animals to enable counter poaching operations during day and night, over a wide area. The system utilises a locally developed radar from Reutech Radar Systems to detect poachers, while custom developed long-range optics is used to inspect suspicious movement.
The system was developed and deployed through a close partnership between SANParks, Peace Parks Foundation (PPF) and the CSIR. The project was started in March 2016 and a real can-do drive to make a difference as soon as possible in the fight against rhino poaching, led to the system being deployed operationally, in the Kruger National Park, 9 months later. This has led to significant reduction in poaching incidents in the regions where was deployed. Its proactive nature enables rangers to thwart poachers before poaching incidents occur.
The close engineer-user partnership was essential to ensure that the system was not just technically capable but was optimised to enable the user to be successful. This was enabled by the support of PPF to not only find international donor funding (from the UK Post Code Lottery) but also to approach a rapid development project with the insight that lessons would be learned along the way and that scope and approach would be adjusted.