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Mobile Biological Sensors – a Solution to Detect Animal Poaching

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Problem statement

Illegal animal poaching is a major issue in the current world which is over looked by many. One of the most promising solution to detect illegal poaching is using the mobile biological sensors (MBS). In MBS an appropriate animal is chosen and attached with a sensor fused with visual and IR camera, temperature sensors and GPS trackers. The main idea of using MBS is to detect abrupt change of pressure in an animal group (panic) due to sudden movement (which indicates some unusual activity) and to send the current location of an animals using GPS to the access point such as mobile towers in which in turn will send it to central computer using GSM and mobile network.    

The major conflict here is, generally wildlife sanctuaries and protected areas are usually located far from urban areas and it would be difficult to get proper signal reception. Alternative solutions would be constructing new towers, which would be harmful to the wildlife due to radiation from the towers and is quite contradicting. Another alternative would be the use of satellite systems. However, the issue with employing satellite system is it is fairly complex and expensive as it requires a satellite to focus on specific area only such as national parks only which cannot be possible in all parts of the world. Hence, to overcome the limitations and find a solution to this problem more research should be done on low-cost and efficient alternatives to satellite communication system which is capable of advanced remote sensing, aerial surveillance and GPS tracking.    


I started off my research by searching the internet on how the illegal poaching activities are taking place and the consequences of it. The next step was to find out about how to prevent or detect the illegal poaching. For this I started out searching in google and reading few articles so that I get some basic information regarding the topic.    

After getting the basic idea of the topic, I used some key words which I learned in the basic search in QUT library and Google scholar and found some papers and books regarding illegal poaching and ways to detect it. Going through different methods the most common method found to detect illegal poaching was with the help of mobile biological sensors (MBS). The author clearly stated that using satellite system for this purpose is complex and costly and hence used GSM network. That statement created a conflict and I searched for how mobile cell towers affect wildlife using key words in Google scholar. This is where I found out that there is a gap in the research and further research must be done to find an alternative solution to this problem and find an efficient low-cost alternative to satellite system which does not interfere much with the natural balance of the area.    

Literature review

According to statistics In South Africa, a rhino was killed every 8 h for its horn throughout 2016. Moreover, an elephant is currently killed every 20 min each day and the poaching statistics total up to 1054 rhino deaths in a population of roughly 25,000 and 27,000 elephant deaths in a population of roughly 377,000. Which shows the need to develop a more efficient method of anti-poaching system. While researching about various strategies used, I came across many solutions which had limited functionality due to technical difficulties and conflicted with other research papers. Such as, the authors (Benjamin Kellenberger, Michele Volpi, Devis Tuia, 2018) stated that using UAVs (unmanned aerial vehicles) achieve a substantial increase in precision in poaching detection. However, found conflicting theory in which the author states that using drones for poaching prevention has resulted many problems including mistakenly attack and issues of human right breaching. With sensors attached to fixed coordinates, restricts the effective detection areas and this situation therefore, requires too much sensors to be set up for a hectare of a park. Similar conflicts were found in what was proposed as fencing surveillance system  where the author mentioned using fixed cameras with image processing techniques for detection requires multiple cameras per hectare and, these use limited to areas with full light, so it may be useless for shadowed areas, densely forests, and cliffs.    

The author proposes mobile biological sensors as an effective tool to detect poaching in real time. MBS resolves the problems related to fixed sensors. The proposed system, additionally, has a classifier which built-in measures to use animal action (panic) to signal Poaching incident, show the location though GPS and some images of the incident. Furthermore, this system may assist monitoring normal animals’ death, and understanding animals’ group behaviour. Further evidence that using MBS on animals helps in behaviour understanding and environmental changes was found in (N. Owen‐Smith V. Goodall, 2014).    

Though this method of poaching detection seems better compared to other methods of detection, a gap in the research was found. Generally wildlife sanctuaries and protected areas are usually located far from urban areas and it would be difficult and to get proper signal reception and to form the access points as the author mentioned and to maintain a proper channel of communication (GSM network) new cell / mobile signal towers should be constructed, which would be harmful to the wildlife due to radiation from the towers and is quite contradicting.    

Another alternative solution would be the use of satellite systems. Which the author stated that it is fairly complex and expensive as it requires a satellite to focus on specific area only such as national parks only which cannot be possible in all parts of the world. To counter this issue, more low cost alternatives to satellite communication should be explored as using satellite system or any similar system serves many other purposes as well.    

Stratollite (William S. Good, Bradley Mallare, Zachary Payne, Jordan Wachs, Charles Wamsley, Joy Fasnacht, Rolfe Bode and Sebastian Padilla, 2018) the authors propose a new alternative to satellite system. This system demonstrates high resolution (< 1 meter) persistent imagery using a balloon positioned in stratosphere called a Stratollite. The system can directionally navigate and maintain station within a region of interest. It can provide the necessary network and internet access as well to the area under its coverage as it can carry a payload of about 50kgs. Although in the paper the author mentioned its initial fly time was about 20 days, more improvements are going on to increase the air time. Moreover, using technologies such as stratollite eliminates the use of IR cameras and visual imagery sensors on MBS as aerial surveillance can be easily and more precisely done with this technology in use.    


The ecosystem is fragile and it is our responsibility to maintain and protect it. With the introduction of new and low-cost technologies such as MBS and Stratollite which can address the conflicts in previous technology used we can hope for a betterment of the current situation and have a better understanding of the animal behaviour. Further the technologies can be improved as new discoveries and inventions happen every day like integration of AI and machine leaning algorithms into the existing systems. Also, strict laws should be implemented and awareness should be created among the young generation about the importance of protecting the wildlife. 


  1. A., Poynter, J. and MacCallum, T. (2017). World view stratospheric ballooning capabilities, research, and commercial applications – IEEE Conference Publication. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Aug. 2019]. 
  2. Kamminga, J., Ayele, E., Meratnia, N. and Havinga, P. (2018). Poaching Detection Technologies—A Survey. [online] sensors. Available at: 8220/18/5/1474 [Accessed 18 Aug. 2019]. 
  3. Kellenberger, B., Volpi, M. and Tuia, D. (2017). Fast animal detection in UAV images using convolutional neural networks – IEEE Conference Publication. [online] Available at: [Accessed 18 Aug. 2019]. 
  4. Firmat Banzi, J. (2014). A Sensor Based Anti-Poaching System in Tanzania National Parks. [online] Available at: ed_Anti- Poaching_System_in_Tanzania_National_Parks/links/5600c5ca08aeafc8ac8c79cd/A-Sensor- Based-Anti-Poaching-System-in-Tanzania-National-Parks.pdf [Accessed 18 Aug. 2019]. 
  5. Guneri Sahin, Y. (2007). Animals as Mobile Biological Sensors for Forest Fire Detection. [online] sensor. Available at: [Accessed 18 Aug. 2019]. 
  6. Good, W., Mallare, B., Payne, Z., Wachs, J., Wamsley, C., Fasnacht, J., Bode, R. and Padilla, S. (2018). Demonstration of Persistent, High Resolution Remote Sensing from an Advanced Stratollite Platform. [online] Aerospace resaerch centeral. Available at: [Accessed 18 Aug. 2019]. 
  7. Mortazavi, S., M, S., Tavassoli, A. and MA, M. (2012). Increased Radioresistance to Lethal Doses of Gamma Rays in Mice and Rats after Exposure to Microwave Radiation Emitted by a GSM Mobile Phone Simulator. [online] SAGE Journals. Available at: [Accessed 18 Aug. 2019]. 
  8. Airam Rodríguez, Juan J. Negro, Mara Mulero, Carlos Rodríguez, Jesús Hernández-Pliego, Javier Bustamante (2012). The Eye in the Sky: Combined Use of Unmanned Aerial Systems and GPS Data Loggers for Ecological Research and Conservation of Small Birds. [online] PLOSE ONE. Available at: [Accessed 18 Aug. 2019]. 

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